Friday, June 19, 2015

Survey me not

I fear that, as a culture, we’re losing our confidence. Why else would we be continually asking others: How am I doing?

That used to be the question the late Ed Koch would ask everyone and anyone when he was mayor of New York City, from 1978 to 1989. I still think of old Ed whenever I’m asked for feedback on a survey, which is every other day or so.

When one person asks for feedback, you respond. The second request? OK, maybe. But the daily barrage tells me it’s time to find a new feedback mechanism.

Some recent examples:
  • The bank that holds my personal accounts and one business checking account invites me to “Voice Your Opinion” by participating in a brief online survey about business banking needs. Me? I just need a checking account, which I already have.
  • The vet would “greatly appreciate it” if I would complete a survey on my cat’s dental cleaning. They should really be asking my cat, although based on his yowling there and back, he wasn’t a happy camper. 
  • An industry executive community selected me to participate in an exclusive survey of its magazine readers. I’m not an exec in that industry, and I don’t read the magazine. 
  • A confirmation email for a product purchase alerts me I will be receiving an email survey within two weeks asking my opinion of service. Forewarned is forearmed; it was deleted immediately. 
  • The latest request came from an airline, with one email asking about my flight out and a second asking about my flight home. I don’t think any amount of feedback will give me more leg room, greater transparency on pricing, or guaranteed space in the overhead bin for carry-on luggage.
The automatic nature of feedback requests remind me of dining out. At some point, shortly after serving the main course, the wait staff will breeze by the table to ask something along the lines of this: “You guys OK?” And because I’m not dining in four-star restaurants, unless the food is truly horrid or includes something unidentifiable or inedible, I’ll usually give a nod so they’ll go away.

There is another reason behind my reluctance to publicly review all matters great and small. One of my clients was a small PR firm, and the principal died suddenly. As I was searching for information about funeral services, I came across his online review of a wastebasket he had purchased. He gave it a positive rating, and that rating kept popping up on subsequent searches as the days went by. I never discovered any funeral or memorial service for him, but I sure know how pleased he was with his wastebasket.

I’d hate for anyone’s last memory of me to be a review of some mundane piece of office furniture. So to all my vendors and service providers, unless you hear differently from me, you’re all doing just fine.

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