Swimming in Surveys

Everyone wants my feedback. At least it feels like everyone wants my feedback because nearly every business transaction ends with someone asking me to fill out a survey.

I called AT&T today because I needed someone there to reset my voicemail password. Before I was able to reach a human, a computerized voice asked if I’d be willing to take a short survey once my problem was solved. Why not solve my problem before you ask me to do something for you?


Many restaurants include a survey card with your check, and anytime I call Comcast or DirecTV they try to steer me towards taking a “short” survey. Consumer Reports sends me a few surveys each year, and each of them are several pages long. All for what?

Occasionally, I’ll take a few minutes to fill out a survey card. But usually I want something in return for my time. Sometimes I don’t feel like providing feedback because the transaction wasn’t memorable. But if I receive excellent or very poor service, I’ll fill out a survey card or ask to speak with the manager.

But I don’t like to be badgered or made to feel guilty. This Burger King had no problem bribing their customers with a free Whopper in exchange for top scores.

Last week I noticed a handmade sign near the drive-thru window at Panda Express. To paraphrase the sign:

We’d appreciate if you’d fill out the survey at the link found on the bottom of your receipt, especially if you’re pleased with the service you received today. We are required to have a certain number of surveys returned each month and we’d appreciate you helping us reach our goal.

So, let me see if I understand this. If I received good service, I should fill out a survey in order for you to reach an arbitrary number I could not care less about? I understand the person’s intent in creating such a sign, but it had the opposite effect on me.

Does your company fall into this trap by caring more about the survey return rate than the actual feedback?

I worked for a company a while back that got it right. After each completed project, the CEO would call the client and ask no more than five questions. Each question was phrased in a manner that would elicit feedback that was actionable. All calls were kept to no more than ten minute. Most were shorter.

The clients were impressed to hear from the CEO, and the feedback he received was not always positive, but it was honest and valuable and helped us improve future projects. Clients tend to sugar-coat feedback when it’s routed though the project manager they’ve been working with. Yet, they tend to loosen up and speak their mind when dealing with the CEO.

When the CEO takes the time to call, it sends the message, “We care about you, and we respect and appreciate your feedback”.

Are your clients excited to fill out a survey about the product or service you deliver? If not, maybe they don’t see the value of taking time out of their day to provide you with free feedback.

If the product or service you deliver isn’t memorable then you have a much larger problem.

Photo by Hashir