Every I do business with sends me a “customer satisfaction survey.” The plumber installs a new faucet, and the next day I get an email. “How did we do? Click here!” I pay the electric bill, and a side window pops up. “What did you think of our service?” I order something online, and I get redirected to a new site. “Do you like us?” I pay for groceries, and the cashier hands me the receipt with a gentle demand to fill out an on-line survey. “I get a bonus if you like my job,” she says with earnest puppy eyes.
My insurance company is the worst. I get an email from them that cheerfully asks, “Would you mind completing a short survey? It’ll only take five minutes.” I delete it. Two days later, another arrives. “Hey, bro! We haven’t heard from you about that survey. Can you hit us up?” I ignore it. Another couple of days go by, and yet another shows up. “ ‘Sup, brah? Uh . . . kinda twisting in the wind here. Haven’t heard from you. Just wondering if you’re still interested in me. Us. But you know, whatevs. Uh . . . fill out the survey when you get a sec, ‘kay? Or not. But let me know so I can move on. It’s okay.” And a few days later: “So you don’t like me, is that it? You’re a real self-centered jerk, and I’m going to tell all the other insurance companies about you. You freak! You—oh, god, I didn’t mean any of that. I’m such a mess. Please, please, please fill out the survey. I promise it’ll just take a second.”
“Tell us what you think!” “Rate us!” “Grade us!” Every company wants feedback, feedback, feedback. It’s as if they’ve suddenly developed an inferiority complex. My money and continued custom isn’t enough—they need praise.
They’re mining data, too. They already know where I live and how old I am and a bunch of other information about me. Now they want to cross-index it with my responses. On MY time. No thanks.
But . . . but . . . PRIZES! We’ll give you a gift card! Well, a chance to win a gift card. Well, a chance to enter a drawing to win a gift card. Have you ever heard of anyone who filled out a customer satisfaction survey and then actually won something worthwhile? Me, neither. I did hear a rumor that my second cousin’s neighbor’s best friend’s wife got a fifty cent coupon for grooming after she said she liked the way the pet place stroked her shi-tzu, but don’t quote me on that. I think the grocery cashier is in the same boat. The store holds out a promise of a bonus if enough people give her a thumbs-up, but sets the bar so impossibly high that no one actually gets one. When did any corporation give its minimum wage workers a real bonus?
We all want praise, I know, and as a society, we don’t hand it out often enough. When the guys at my regular sushi hangout produced some exceptional sushi one evening, I paused on my way out the door and said across the bar to them, “You guys were =on= tonight! Delicious stuff!” And one of the waitresses thought I was the nicest guy ever. Another time, my ex and I were having a bad day and we stopped for dinner at a restaurant, where the staff seemed to go out of their way to be extra nice to us, and we felt rather better for it. I wrote them a letter of thanks and later learned the manager framed it. Maybe if we said such things more often, companies wouldn’t feel the need to bombard us with surveys.
–Steven Harper Piziks