Random PR Thoughts

And the Survey Says!


Many years ago, the lease on my car came up and I decided to look at a number of potential replacements. I visited a local car dealer and was quite taken with a particular vehicle. The salesperson was, I thought, a little aggressive, practically dragging me over to a car for a test-drive. But I liked the car and decided to close the deal.

We went through the normal paperwork, during which I counted the “Sales Leader of the Month” plaques festooning her cubicle, and in due course the salesperson said that we were done. She gathered the stack of papers in front of her and began to stuff them into a folder for me, but suddenly she stopped and said, “Oh look, here is your customer satisfaction survey. You know, a lot of people want to fill these out and then forget. So why don’t we do it right now?”

But she did not give me the survey to complete. She placed it on her desk, facing her, and said, “Okay, the first question is ‘Rate the service you were provided by your sales associate. The choices are Excellent, Very Good, So-So, Not Very Good, and Poor. Would you say I provided excellent service?”

What is one to say to that? “No, Your Scabrousness, dealing with you was like passing a kidney stone.” Of course not. Even if it were true, common courtesy would prevent me from such candor under the circumstances. I replied, “Uh-huh.”

“Great!” she said. “Now, how would you rate my knowledge of the car?” Suffice it to say, this salesperson had perfected the art of gaming the system and had the plaques (and presumably, the bonuses) to show for it. And what harm, really? I was generally satisfied, I probably would have forgotten to fill out the survey at home, and she had picked a tough line of work and she seemed good at it.

I remembered this experience the other day when my wife and I went to upgrade her phone. I must say, we got great service from a sales person and the manager – we were very pleased. But instead of having us fill out a customer satisfaction survey in the store, the manager said, “In a day or two, you are going to get a survey in your email.” With a distinctly pleading manner, he added, “It’s on a scale of one to ten. Anything below a nine is considered a failure.”

I got the distinct impression that “failure” did not mean just a bad day; it was career ending. Not an incentive, more like a threat.

Working in retail is a bitch. Working in retail with products that cost a lot of money, need endless explanations, and are sold to a customer base ranging from tech-savvy teens to senior luddites has got to be the most stressful job after flight attendants on a flight to Disneyworld.

Let’s add to that stress by putting the manager’s career in the hands of someone who can’t remember how to access voicemail or change a ringtone, or is simply having a bad day. Absurd, right?

Happens every day. So, what do you suppose the company does with that information? Why do anything with it at all when it tells you that there is simply no room for improvement? And, by the way, am I to believe that the company actually gives a crap about my satisfaction?

Or is it more likely that a marketing officer at corporate headquarters has a lot riding on satisfaction levels achieving spectacular heights and then defying gravity so as to never descend below “nine.” It’s a box to check on the way to a bonus several times more than the manager makes in a year. Did I just hear someone say, “Make it happen or I’ll find someone else who can.”

The result is an ecosystem in which lower level employees are wrung out like dishrags to produce survey results that HQ executives use to convince their bosses that they need not work any harder or invest more to increase customer satisfaction because obviously customers are deliriously happy. A virtuous circle of denial.

I got the survey by email this afternoon. I gave tens all around. What else could I do?

September 21 PS: Today the Dish Network guy (an independent contractor in a Dish truck) came to hang a TV and install a wireless receiver. As he left, he said, “You’ll be getting a call from Dish to take a survey.  Please give me all nines or I lose 20% of my income for this call.  If you don’t want to give me nines, please don’t take the survey.”  (BTW the scale is 1-9.) I feel bad for the guy.  He did a great job and I gave him all nines. But some people feel that there is always “room for improvement” and won’t give the top score.  If the monthly average goes below 8.75, he loses 20% of the whole month.  Just one 6 or 7 can drag the average down.  It makes hard working, talented employees have to grovel for high scores, which is demeaning and unfair. All so the VP of sales can “prove” to the CEO that he is working hard enough for his $500,000 salary plus bonus. Disgraceful.

Categories: Random PR Thoughts

2 replies »

  1. Interesting timing—and ballsy salesperson. I signed up for Consumer Reports for a month and as part of unsubscribing I had to complete a survey. By the time I got the fourth screen, I started marking everything 4. If I completed surveys for everyone who asks me, I would be giving up a significant part of my life.

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