We Really Want Your Opinion…As Long As Its Good.

The white-coated pharmacist handed me my drugs at my local CVS this morning. As she did, her eyes grew big and her voice rose like a teenage girl on opening night of the latest Twilight movie.

Oooh, you’ve been selected to take our feedback survey for a chance to win $1000,” she said. I’ve never seen a pharmacist so excited. Apparently the thrill of winning a lottery trumps counting pills on the excite-o-meter. Who knew?

Then, she said something that struck a raw nerve somewhere deep inside my customer-service core: “We’d like you to give us all 5’s on the survey.

Not “We hope we’ve served you well.” Not “We’d really like your honest feedback.” Nope, it was a flat-out directive intended to solicit only great customer satisfaction scores. 

And to seal the deal, she handed me a Reese’s Peanut Butter candy bar. BRIBERY! I felt so, so, so…DIRTY. There, I said it out loud.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I took the candy. Think I’m going to pass on free candy? They guy who still dresses up for Halloween? C’mon!

The kicker was the note that accompanied the bribe. It said, “These questions are on a  scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being ‘completely satisfied.’ If you cannot answer with a score of 5, please contact the Store Manager at the number listed.” It said more, but that was the part that made me laugh. 

Ok, let me get this straight. You request me to give you all 5’s. Then you tell me if I can’t, I need to call the manager. Man, now my free candy bar and potential lottery winnings are beginning to sound like work! I’d better give them their 5’s ’cause I don’t have time or desire to call the manager. After all, I’ve got a newsletter article to write.

Customer service evangelist Kevin Stirtz calls this “survey coaching.” In his article, “Survey Coaching Can Ruin a Good Customer Relationship,” he equates companies who coach your survey participation to a waiter who would dare to hand you your bill and say, “I really hope you give me a big fat tip!”

Imagine asking your boss for feedback that way. “Well, boss, I’d be happy to listen to my annual review…as long as its all positive and I get a raise at the end. By the way, if you can’t give me all positive feedback, could you call my spouse and explain why? Thanks. Oh, and here’s a candy bar.

I get why companies feel like they need to offer incentives. People don’t willingly fill out surveys, especially if they don’t feel like it will do any good. What I don’t get is why companies don’t just straight up ask their customers how they’re doing.

We send a survey to everyone who books a meeting at sparkspace. We get about a 25% response rate. If we gave out candy bars, we might get a 26% response rate.

Our survey doesn’t ask for high ratings. Our survey gives our guests the opportunity to tell us what they liked, what they didn’t like, and how we can improve. We’ve received some pretty good suggestions over the years through our survey. But, honestly, I think we get better feedback by taking a moment or two each day to just talk to our guests about their experience face to face.

Surveys are great for building statistics and maybe for capturing some trends. But they’re far from being the world’s best way to identify areas for improvement. So, if you’re going to use them, don’t blow smoke up your customer’s internet connection trying to convince them that the survey will lead to big changes.

And by all means, don’t bribe your customers. If they want to tell you something, just give them an opportunity and they’ll talk your ear off. As Kevin Stirtz says, incentives “poison the process” because they change the customer’s motivation for giving you feedback.

Ok, maybe I won’t eat the candy bar after all.


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