The Beatings Will Stop When Everything is Rated a 10

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Take a trip, make a major purchase, dine out, open a bank account, or just go to work, and the odds are good that you will soon be asked to complete some form of satisfaction survey. It seems that we’re practically being surveyed to death these days. Okay, maybe not “to death”, but you know what I’m referring to. You’ve doubtless experienced a significant ramping up of user, customer, and employee surveys in recent years.

In the interest of full disclosure, our firm provides satisfaction survey services (customer and employee) for clients. But this isn’t about us, or what we might be able to do for you. Rather, it’s about what YOU can do for you.

I’ve been on a road trip promoting our new book, and four times during the last week have been overtly asked (begged might be a better term) by customer contact employees to complete a customer satisfaction survey, AND to be sure and record my response as a “10”, or 7, or whatever the maximum score is on the firm’s survey. These four episodes involved two major hotel chains and two prominent food service brands. There was nothing subtle about it. The clear implication in each case was that, we want you to complete a survey and give us a 10, and if you can’t give the 10, well, then… maybe you can rethink completing the survey. On top of that, I’ve received two emails from the credit card company we use to pay for this travel, the first one asking me to complete a survey, and the second bugging me to get the survey done.

If you’re going to seek and fully utilize satisfaction surveys, there are a host of critical success factors you should bake into your data gathering process. Here are just a few of them:

The beatings will stop when everything is rated a 10 – Whether it is of the employee or customer satisfaction variety, many survey users would suggest that attaining high scores is the main objective of doing the survey. Au contraire! We would submit that it is of far greater benefit to get valid feedback about what the employee, customer, or user sees as the best and worst aspects of doing business with your organization, AND to see scores go up over time. Indeed, low scores and some bone honest feedback about things that you need to improve are one of the best gifts someone can give you. But you’re probably not going to get that if all you’re pushing for is maxed out scores.

Be careful, very careful what you incent people to do – We’re not opposed at all to linking surveys to performance-based incentives, but as with any incentive, you’ve got to be very careful how you draw up the program. People, all of us, are going to do what we’re incentivized to do, regardless of whether it meshes with the spirit and intent of the program or not. If incentivized (positively or otherwise) simply on the basis of attaining high scores, people will find myriad ways to game the system in order to achieve that objective, witness my conversations with the four hotel and food service personnel.

Strive for high participation, but don’t, repeat do NOT badger people – Clearly, getting a significant percentage of respondents from the targeted survey population is a good thing in that it helps assure a valid sample. But, you want it to be an un-coerced sample. Doing otherwise annoys the would-be respondent, and it very likely “poisons the well.”

At the end of the day, it is important to realize that nothing short of our credibility and reputation are at stake when we invite people to tell us what they think about our business. The least we can do is to honor their time by asking a few (not a great long list of) relevant questions, inviting criticism as much as praise, taking their feedback to heart, and sharing the results with all stakeholders.

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