If you eat in major restaurants, do business with major banks, or use the services of any chain operated business, chances are you will be hit with a customer survey. The practice is reasonable enough. Businesses need to know how they are being received by the general public and how to improve business.
Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a meal at your favorite eatery. The server approaches with the tab and says, “We’re taking a survey to find out how satisfied you are with our service.” Then in lower tone she adds, “Perhaps you could give me a really good score.” As you read the survey with its boxes labeled from “poor” to “excellent” you think, “She was really good. Not perfect – nobody’s perfect – but very good.” So you check off all the boxes as “very good,” and you leave the survey for the server thinking you’ve helped her. You haven’t. In fact, she could lose her job.
I know. I was employed at a business which used customer surveys. The public needs to understand the way businesses evaluate their surveys and employees. It’s quite different from the way the public thinks.
When we judge a product or service, we tend to think in terms of the real world. We commonly describe service as “very good” if we are truly satisfied with our experience. We may even add “excellent” in written remarks. We are apt to think of “excellent” service as exceptional, not the normal experience. We don’t expect people to be perfect, so when we call service “very good,” we are not being critical. We may think of excellent service as “very good” depending on the individual.
Business sees things differently. The particular industry where I worked expected “excellent” ratings as the normal score for all branches of the business. Anything less was considered a shortcoming. As a result, employees were demoted, transferred or released if their score was not “excellent” enough. Our own branch consistently scored above 94% in customer satisfaction. But since we were not at 100%, the administration was not happy. Yes, other branches scored higher, but very often, they did less work and were judged by fewer surveys. One low survey could ruin the average. As it turned out, “very good” was not very good at all.
Businesses who think like my employer are more inclined to mark down an employee for a less than perfect score rather than reward them for improvement. As a consequence, an employee’s job may be in jeopardy for a score that is very good by most measures, but not good enough for the business. Businesses need a better way by which to evaluate their employees. But until someone invents a better system, the public and employees alike are stuck with the one that is.
So the next time someone places a “customer satisfaction survey” before you, be generous. Tell them if the service was bad; businesses do need to know when they have a problem. Otherwise, let the server know that his (or her) work was “excellent” if you were satisfied. And be sure to let the employer know. You just may save someone’s job.