Opinion | Off the Cuff

A survey of surveys, but does it really matter?

Satisfaction survey: The ultimate tool to retain customer loyalty

  • By Padmini B. Sankar, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 December 10, 2012
  • Gulf News

Customer Satisfaction: These two words are enough to send people into a heated debate. There are those who wax eloquent about the great customer service, and there are others, the vast majority, who say, “Customer Service? Out here that’s just a contradiction of terms”.

Well, one thing that follows close on the heels of customer satisfaction is the customer satisfaction survey. This is inflicted on us wherever we go. These can be in the form of a written survey, where you tick a number of boxes with adjectives of different degrees like Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor or whatever description best suits the product or service. Then there are some surveys that are online. However, quite the worst one is the one flat on the face, where there’s an electronic gadget on the person’s desk and you fill it in right in front of him or her. Can you really be objective with your comments when the person you are assessing is right opposite you?

Sometimes, I feel these surveys are just a means to irritate the customer. We’re all familiar with the saying “The customer is King”. However, those guys who invented the survey seem to have turned this on its head. “So you’re the king, eh?” they seem to be saying. “Okeydokes, then, we’ll show you who’s king!” And there they unleash the customer satisfaction survey!

If a thing is done to death, it really kills us — and this is more than true for the survey. Go to a restaurant and there you’re given one! Go to a mobile phone or car workshop and you get it again. Online magazines don’t spare you and neither do banks and beauty parlours. In a week, I fill out at least a couple of forms. And let me tell you, I am sick to the bone of fillin’ ‘em in!

I know that those Harvard-educated business pundits say that these surveys are the thing. It is supposed to increase customer retention and drive growth. It tells your customers you are listening to them. It’s the ultimate tool, the magic mantra to retain customer loyalty and stop them from going elsewhere.

The pundits claim that it’s not just what you ask in a survey, but where you ask it and how often. And the businesses are advised to then act on these surveys, but do they really? What happens after you spend five or ten minutes of your precious time in ticking the relevant boxes? If they really did act on it, we’d have the best customer service in the entire world, considering the number of surveys taken.

These forms are like hooligan children — they’ve been created and are now out of control and let loose on an unsuspecting public. Perhaps they end up in a board meeting as statistics. And we’ve all heard Mark Twain’s famous lines: “There are lies, damned lies and statistics”.

However, recently, I was treated to what I would term the mother of all surveys. I had to rush my better half — who had suddenly developed a racking cough in the dead of the night — to a nearby hospital which had recently opened its doors. It was 2am by the time he was pronounced fit and ready to go home and while checking out and paying the bills, we got — yes, you’re right — a customer satisfaction form!

Padmini B. Sankar is a Dubai-based freelance writer

Gulf News