Random PR Thoughts

Don’t Ask, Won’t Tell

Call Center

I used to feel flattered when someone asked for my opinion about something. It suggested that because of my perspicacity, there was some importance attached to my view. But all that has changed.

Lately, even the most insignificant interaction with a company results in a request for my opinion about its performance in assisting me.

Sometimes the request comes before I speak to a representative. “At the conclusion of this call, you will be asked to take a short survey about your satisfaction. The representative will not know whether or not you have agreed to participate in this survey.”

Hmm. Why is it important whether or not the representative does or doesn’t know? Will he or she be more or less responsive to my issues if I opt not to bare my soul? “This joker won’t take the survey, so I’m going to go out of my way to screw him.”

Worse still is the personal request from the representative. “At the conclusion of this call, I can transfer you into our system for a short survey about my performance. Would that be okay?”

How are you supposed to answer that? “No, I don’t give a good goddam about your performance assessment, I just want to know when my iPad case is getting here.” How about never?

There is, for me, an implicit intimidation going on here. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine tries to see what her doctor has written in her file about her attitude. Will the next customer service representative I reach check the records and conclude, “Okay, this one’s an asshole. He stays on hold for ten more minutes”?

I recently became a Dish Network customer. Not surprisingly, I had a few questions at first, and made a few calls to them. Each call generated a promise (or threat) that I would receive a call from them to take “a short” survey. I then received a personal call from Arizona – a real, live person – to tell me (again) that I would be getting the automated call. The automated call would come, but I soon learned the number and sent the calls into voicemail.

It’s just as bad online. I have lost track of how many times I have had the honor of being “selected” to take a short online survey after making a purchase. Usually, these surveys are anything but short. They feature a progress bar to show you how far into the survey you are. After six pages of “With 10 being highly satisfied and 1 being highly dissatisfied…” the bar has only moved to 25%. I become highly dissatisfied. That’s when I abandon the whole thing. (“Customer has short attention span and is generally uncooperative.”)

What do they do with this information?

Somebody’s bonus – and it ain’t the person you’re dealing with – hangs on the constant upward movement of these asinine surveys. If the surveys show that customer satisfaction is up, up, up, it’s time to par-tay! If not, get ready to move back to the call center.

Conceptually, I don’t object to the notion of taking the pulse of one’s customers to see if there is room for improvement. But most customer service experiences suck. Always have, always will. Why not put the pretense aside and stop bothering us with dumbass customer satisfaction surveys?

Because I’m dissatisfied. And I plan to stay that way.

Now, get the hell off my lawn!

Categories: Random PR Thoughts

5 replies »

  1. This cogent analysis is a significant contribution to the body of knowledge about surveys. I think it’s important to understand how surveys fit into the “Product Improvement and Innovation Cycle” (PIIC) Here’s a high-level overview, suitable for printing and/or memorization:

    Survey customer.
    Receive excoriating feedback
    Briefly consider improving products/services.
    Briefly ponder revelation that improvements would require spending some money.
    Reject improvements.
    Spend lavishly on increased advertising.
    Declare victory.
    Return to beginning of cycle.

    Any questions? If so, keep ’em to yourself.

  2. Actually, I think these are among the more benign ones.

    I am currently on the lam from a division of Neilsen. After ignoring their calls, which came three or four times a day for more than a month, sometimes before 8 am or after 10 pm, I picked up their call by accident and agreed to a 5-10 minute interview. (Cue derisive laughter.) Forty minutes later, I was congratulated on completing Part 1 of the survey. There was also a diary part. When I said I didn’t want to do that, I was told it could be done online instead using their emailed link. I again promised nothing. Since then, I have been barraged with calls and regular emails. It turns out, they want me to complete both the online Part 2 and the diary Part 3. Heaven only knows what comes after that. A DNA sample?

    I have not participated in either Part 2 or the still unsent Part 3, and I’m so annoyed that I’m done with enriching anyone’s customer satisfaction numbers. They shouldn’t even ask. Thanks for your post, Chris, and thanks for letting me vent.

  3. Underneath the hilarious frustration of this post is a sobering truth: in their frantic pursuit of Big Data, sellers may actually be alienating their customers. Companies that deliver quality goods and services, and deliver them well, at a fair price, are already showing they care about their customers. Asking for proof of “satisfaction” is like the now-common “Tip Jar” next to the deli register. Dude, you sold me a cup of coffee. I have to tip you, too? Get off my lawn, indeed.

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