To Serve You Better   Leave a comment

Survey

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you about our service…

What is it these days with businesses wanting to know how they’re doing? No matter where you go, who you see, what form you fill in or school you attend, there’s always some nosy person sticking a form or link in your face, begging to ask how things went, what they did right, wrong, fair-to-middling, or other such intrusive questions that you really don’t think hard and long enough to answer.

Take the other day, for instance. I had to go to the doctor. Nothing fancy, just a routine body inspection to make sure the organs weren’t grinding and bits weren’t falling off. Even got my arm stuck with a flu shot. Afterwards, I’m handed a clipboard. “Could you please fill this out?” says the nurse. “They want all of our patients to, nowadays. You know, to rate the service.”

I nod and smile, believing this is my opportunity to explode about my 3:15 appointment actually occurring at 4:10. That’d be admitting failure and besides, they already know they’d be inviting a lot more than negative responses. And it isn’t enough that patients have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about the myriad of ailments you didn’t have, might have had or just plain had (aren’t they supposed to know this already?). They’d like to drain whatever we’ve got left in our pocket-protected pens and finish off our opinions of what was supposed to be an already lengthy process to begin with (let’s face it: NO ONE goes to the doctor believing they’re going to be in there for any less than two hours).

Then there’s the oil change I had the other day. What’s so mind blowing about a routine procedure for your car? Apparently, the place where I took it wants to know what they could do better. I really have no idea – change the little reminder sticker to a “Hello, Kitty” stick-on that blankly stares at you to take your Chevy in at 48,000? That questionnaire came in the form of a request. “If you don’t mind, could you take five minutes and go to our website and rate our service? It’ll take less than five minutes.” Having other things to do, I simply didn’t get around to it. Today, I received a phone call on both my land line and cell reminding me to do fill in that questionnaire so they can serve me better. To really get me in trouble, they called my husband’s cell, too. I guess they think a woman isn’t capable of knowing harassment when she sees it.

Amazon’s great for relentless pressure to rate your product, too. Sure, it’s terrific for books and larger items, like washer-dryers. But do I really need to review the rubber wristband for my kid’s watch? He’s going to break it anyway in about two days, and I only ordered it because I got a few CDs and it was convenient. Yeah, I get them too from every single online order I get – shows up in my mailbox that’s devoted exclusively to receiving quasi-necessary but easily forgotten emails.

Gas stations, chain restaurants, clothes stores, the babysitter…all of them need to know what I think about them. Is self-esteem in that short of supply these days? Do we really need to be patted on the back or smacked in the face? Why?

Of course, we all know the answer: Leave. Me. Alone. 

The truth is, if someone’s doing a good job, they should be told about it. Praised, even. Same goes for bad work – boy, they ought to hear about it. Voluntarily. But why go asking and asking and asking? Yeah, sure, they’re going to tell you it’s all about providing you with better service. But does it really? I haven’t noticed anyone rushing to get my doctor to see me any faster. My oil change predictably gets changed every 3000 miles and the car still runs just fine. My life hasn’t been altered because of any basic, essential or throwaway service I’ve received anywhere, and that’s including the places where I actually did fill in the survey.

Tell you what. I’d love to write a short story on the person who’s filled out one too many surveys. Imagine a corporate hack processing all of these forms. He gets that one-off where the questionee provides blunt, tasteless answers. The hack checks out the person and winds up in some kind of cyber netherworld wherein he desperately tries to fulfill requests and never, ever gets it straight. Or the woman who answers a request with snarky comments. She trips down a portal and every snippety comment she makes comes back to bite her. What kind of world would those people inhabit? Or take the classic stoning scene from Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Instead of stones, the woman has thousands of anonymous hands shoving questionnaires in her face. Her inability to gauge billions of satisfying or unsettling performances, accompanied by a pen with a very short supply of ink, causes her hand to tremor, leading to an exploding brain and quite messy demise.

Now imagine you. There you are, paying the tab at Blammo Burger, when the chipper, youthful customer service assistant asks you if that cheese-onion-sausage-kale-acai-pilchard beef burger met your definition of yummy. How you gonna respond?

Thought so.

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