Dear Valued Fill-in-the-Blank Customer,
Thank you for being a Fill-in-the-Blank Customer! Your feedback is very important to us because we are always trying to improve our service to our customers. To participate in a brief survey on your recent Fill-in-the-Blank service experience, click on this link: Customer Care Survey. For your convenience, you can take this survey anytime you wish, between now and May 20, 2014.
I had just hung up from talking to the Fill-in-the-Blank customer service representative, and I received the above email. I certainly like being a valued customer, and I like the idea of providing feedback, but am I the only one who thinks the feedback trend has turned into a feedback frenzy?
Every time you turn around, a company wants your feedback. "Will you take a short survey after your call is completed? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no."
There was a time I might have pressed 1. But every time I make a call to straighten out something on a bill or an account, I don't want to spend another five minutes answering questions about how the representative answered my questions. Most likely, I didn't want to spend the minutes trying to straighten out something on the bill in the first place.
Because every business conducts these customer service surveys -- from dog boarding kennels to banks to pinwheel manufacturers -- customers must be completing the surveys. Somebody must take the time to answer the questions. Maybe the surveys make them feel valued. Mostly, they make me feel annoyed.
Some of the survey questions are a bit much, too. Did the representative take ownership of the service call? I suppose I understand what they were trying to ask, but ownership? Really?
"Have I resolved the issue that you called about today?" a customer service representative might ask.
"Yes, thank you."
"No, I'm serious. Are your issues resolved?"
"Yes, as far as I can tell."
"You don't understand how important this is to me. If I haven't resolved your issues, I have failed."
"Well, maybe it's out of your control. Maybe it will turn out to be something mechanical or in the network."
"Don't say that. Please. I must own my service."
Well, maybe that's a little extreme. Still.
Perhaps it's a reflection of the fact our economy is increasingly service-oriented. According to a website called Economy Watch, "the old dichotomy between product and services has been reduced and the service-product continuum has been established." This has led to something called the servitization of products. Ahh, yes.
This theory asserts that customer satisfaction enhances the company's goodwill in the marketplace. Yes, but what about the product? I like good service, but I like products that don't require much service even more.
For example, the service guy who recently installed a new dishwasher at our house was ¿knowledgeable, enthusiastic about his work, resolved our issues and took ownership of the job he was doing. But why did we have to replace a dishwasher that had already had several major, and costly, repairs when it was just 6 years old?
According to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic service guy, it's because appliance manufacturers no longer make products to last.
So, I suppose if it's no longer about the quality, or at least the longevity, of products, then companies focus on service. And the best way to measure service must be those ubiquitous surveys. It's funny -- the surveys usually don't ask what the issues were. They just want to know whether half of them, none of them or all of them were resolved.
And what do they do with those survey answers? Are they stored in some giant survey database in the cloud? Are they deleted and destroyed? Can our answers be traced to us? You can just imagine customer¿ service survey snoops poring over our answers:
"Check this out. Her issues have never been completely resolved. In 940 customer service surveys, her issues haven't been completely resolved one time. Not once."
"Sounds like her issues may go beyond her experience with service representatives. You know what I mean?"
OK, maybe I'm a little NSA-paranoid. I am a child of the '60s. And what about all those calls recorded for quality assurance? Have you ever wondered about those?
Three days after I received that first email, this one appeared:
Thank you for being a Fill-in-the-Blank Customer!
Recently you received an email inviting you to participate in a survey from Fill-in-the-Blank. If you have completed the survey, we appreciate your participation.
If you have not taken the opportunity to access the survey, we again invite you to participate in a brief survey on your recent Fill-in-the-Blank technical service experience.
I thought the first email said I had until May 20.