Thursday, March 22, 2012

Attack of the Surveys!

Ever notice that you can't seem to go anywhere or do anything lately without being asked to fill out some annoying survey?  "How are we doing?"  "Please take a minute to let us know how to better serve you!"  "We appreciate your feedback."  Apparently they do, because those little feedback forms are sitting on the pillows of our hotel rooms, scrawled on the back of our grocery receipts, and tucked in our checkout bags along with our new undershirts and bluejeans.  One can't even go through a Taco Bell drive through without finding such a survey, waiting there to jump out from its hiding place on top of your bean burrito to proposition you.  What's up with that?  Why are these things popping up everywhere?

Essentially, this is Big Corporate looking to improve its customer service.  They're often disguised as discounts and coupons, because they know that only really happy or really pissed customers fill out surveys.  But if they can be induced to fill them out by being a coupon or including a special offer, they can get a good feel for how individual business locations are doing.

Without ever having to visit.

Yes, folks.  The survey spares the company executives the bother of having to come down from on high and actually mingle with you peons.  After all, if they already have quantifiable data, why should they have to get on a plane to go get it?  Sure, they give up a little bit here and there to coax you into the survey with coupon discounts, but that's better than the occasional plane ticket, isn't it?

Actually, this is the latest incarnation of a trend that began decades earlier.  The "mystery shopper" would occasionally visit various locales and shop there, evaluating the service of employees clandestinely, making sure that they did their jobs right.  This was an effective tool, and often made sure that employees treated everyone well, because you never knew when or where that mystery shopper would show up.  It also gave a service-based business the latitude to be able to deal with unruly customers.  After all, if some tramp or hobo started making a fuss, the manager could simply kick him out, no muss, no fuss.

But no.  Here comes the Customer Survey.  Now, the unruly and unreasonable customer can simply retaliate by filling out a survey form, and Corporate thinks that there is a problem.  So much for accuracy in reporting!  And by customers filling these out, companies suddenly don't have to even pay the salary of the mystery shopper in order to spare themselves the hassle of dealing with the harsh realities of the daily lives of those who are less lucky than they.  Thus, some luckless bastards end up losing their $40K mystery shopper jobs, and executives can pretend they're doing a good job or giving us great service.

I've got a better idea.  Fuck the surveys!

Ignore the discounts, to hell with the coupon.  Let's have those Corporate Clods come down from their Ivory Towers and actually talk to us for a change!  We're not so bad, are we?  We don't even stink like we once did back in the days when the feudal system they're trying to reinstate was in full force.  We use fluoride!  Isn't that worth the occasional conversation?

Don't get me wrong, customer surveys have resulted in a few positive changes.  For example, checkout lanes are more prone to open up when lines grow long, because everyone from butcher to bagger can operate a register in a pinch - all to avoid the negative on the feedback form.  And your local McDonald's has an automated system which pours drinks based on the order screen data, so you'll never again get a regular soda when you clearly ordered a diet.  (And we're not far from the day when a robot will ask if we'd like fries with our order.)  And again, all because companies quake in fear at the negative survey feedback.  Still, it seems to me that if a corporation gets too big, it deserves to lose money through poor customer service.  Why should we, who aren't even employees, have to behave as though we were in exchange for some silly discount that isn't really worth the time or trouble?  Was it worth it to kill jobs of all those mystery shoppers who were just trying to support their families?

Sorry.  I'm going to ditch the damned surveys.  I see no reason I should check any boxes just so that bigger companies can drive what's left of the mom & pop operations into extinction.  I ask that you join me.  Vive la revolucion!

Eric.


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