I have a full-time job, a household to run, an aging body to maintain, and family to care for and enjoy. To all the businesses and services that I use: please stop dinging my phone every two minutes with another multipage survey.
I get it. The goal is to improve customer, client, and patient satisfaction and keep them and their wallets coming back. I think it does work.
Before surveys and ratings became a primary focus of businesses, it seemed there used to be in every business office at least one disgruntled, rude, crabby employee who had worked there seemingly forever and obviously hated his or her job.
I have noticed in this era of frequent surveying, employees are very aware that you might give them a poor review. Even those same crabby employees (if they still are employed there) are making an effort to be pleasant. I don’t care if they are faking it; if I am at a doctor’s office and feeling like death warmed over, I have a reasonable expectation that the receptionist speak to me respectfully and courteously.
I still remember the very first customer survey I got. It was for a new car. The survey came in the mail back then. Not e-mail; the kind of mail that used to arrive in your mailbox in front of your house, in an envelope, with a stamp.
My first thought was that I had gained an unrequested penpal. When I ignored the first multipage questionnaire he sent, he sent another, then another. That one came with a quarter taped to it, which I guess was supposed to encourage me to complete it.
Oooh, a shiny new quarter! My new penpal evidentally had been living in a cave on a deserted island for the last 30 years and had never heard of inflation.
Nevertheless, to get him off my back and out of my mailbox, I decided to respond. Most of the questions had to do with the car’s mechanical performance. I can check a car’s fluid levels and the air in the tires and gas it up. Other than that, I know nothing about what makes it run. I would not be surprised to open the hood and find that it is powered by steroid-enhanced gerbils.
Some mysteries of life are not meant to be understood, like HMOs, your phone bill, and Michael Jackson.
I thought once I had returned the completed questionnaire to the dealer, he would leave me alone. Wrong. My penpal wasn’t done with me yet.
The next questionnaire arrived with a crisp one-dollar bill attached. Now we were talking. Paper money! Maybe he would send another and attach a 5-dollar bill, then a ten. I obliged his one-dollar request by filling out yet another survey.
This version was, how shall I describe it? Weird. As humorist Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
This one had sections devoted to my personal values, my feelings, and the character of my new vehicle. One question asked me to check which character traits best described my car: was it classy, traditional, adventurous, relaxed, sporty, or friendly?
Its character? It is an inanimate object. It has no character.
Then it asked what brand names best fit my car’s image? Crayola, Timex, Harley Davidson, Doritos, or Rolex? Which store would I say matches my new car’s image: Wal-Mart, Eddie Bauer, Saks Fifth Avenue, Banana Republic, or Sears?
Look, Mr. Penpal, when I come out of Wal-Mart with bulging shopping bags, I had better not find that my snobby vehicle has sneaked off to Saks Fifth Avenue to park next to the Cadillacs, Mercedes, and Lexuses (Lexi? The fact that I am not sure what the plural of Lexus is should hint at the answer to that question).
Then it asked if I considered my new car to be a leader. You betcha, Mister. When I drive down the street in my new car, other vehicles which were on their way to business lunches at fancy restaurants, make a sudden U-turn and follow my car through the drive-through at White Castle. That’s how strong my car’s leadership skills are.
Then it asked if my vehicle makes me feel proud, successful, prestigious. Does it inspire envy in my friends?
Look, buddy, all I want from my car is that it safely and consistently get me from point A to point B. I do not attain any sense of self-worth from a vehicle. I couldn’t care less who might be impressed by it. As a matter of fact, as long as it remains dependable, I would be perfectly content to drive it until there is nothing left of it but a frame, a functional engine, a steering wheel, and a seat. When I drive around in it, I will look like Wonder Woman cruising the airwaves in her invisible plane, only with a much less admirable figure and without the cape.
In an ideal situation, my car and I (both of us old, decrepit, and rusty) would expire at precisely the same moment, preferably on the cemetery grounds parked atop an empty hole, thus saving my family a lot of trouble and expense.
My car’s character might be expecting Grey Poupon and a fine Cabernet, but it is getting the cheap yellow mustard in a squeeze bottle and generic cola and it can like it or lump it.
Meanwhile, all you businesses please stop dinging my phone with multipage surveys half a dozen times a day. Do a better job of training your employees in the skill of customer satisfaction and fire the rude, crabby, and inefficient ones.