Anyway, I was researching a blog for Forbes on big data (don’t be impressed; it’s sponsored, which means a company pays me to do it), and I ran across this wonderful blog post from about 18 months ago. The author, who doesn’t seem to be identified by anything more than the name of his blog, Squarely Rooted, and this description – “a rational radical with firm footing” – seems to be an equally cranky version of me, but even more left-wing than I have become.
SR wrote about retailers taking results of successful customer interactions and using them to provide incentives for sales people. For instance, customers are more likely to purchase something if they’ve touched it or tried it on, so employees are paid more when they hand items to customers or herd them into dressing rooms.
But SR also hits upon the one problem with this plan. Everyone has access to the same suggestions: “Each of these were measured in isolation, not in tandem. So what you and every other brick’ n’ mortar clothing retailer is collectively [doing is to] make shopping a miserable, pressure-filled, harrowing experience.” (italics original)
Suddenly it became clear to me why every time I open my e-mail, I have multiple messages from companies I’ve patronized asking me how I enjoyed the experience. Somewhere along the way, someone discovered that customers like having their opinion solicited.
That’s why my car dealer asks me how I liked getting my car serviced, and whether it was done to my liking. Well, uh – I really don’t know what you guys do when I bring it in for service – they’re your specifications – so how the heck do I know whether you did a good job or not?
That’s why United asks me after every single leg of a flight how I enjoyed being crammed into a seat barely suitable for a twelve-year-old.
That’s why Amazon asks me how I liked the way my grocery delivery was packaged. You know what? I didn’t. It was wrapped tightly in sticky bubble wrap and it took 10 minutes to get the box unwrapped and 10 more minutes to get the sticky stuff off my hands.
You know what I’ve discovered is wrong with this process? While companies clearly think their customers like having their opinion solicited, nobody took the time to tell them that customers also like having their opinions listened to (italics mine).
And that ain’t happening.
I know this because I have frequently included suggestions in these surveys, and they have all been roundly ignored. Even my complaints about the endless surveys have been roundly ignored. But because somebody came to this conclusion about surveys, everybody’s sending them out, but nobody’s reading the responses.
This is basically the corporate version of saying “how are you?” and not being interested in the response in the slightest.
I wish I could make it stop. But I’ve found that if you ignore the surveys, companies just send them out again, thus making the simple act of opening e-mail – as SR so aptly put it – a miserable, pressure-filled, harrowing experience. As if it wasn’t already.