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If You’re Going to Ask If I’m Pleased, Please Do So In a Way That Pleases Me Vasudha Deming

Yes­ter­day, for the sec­ond time in recent mem­ory, I had a befud­dling expe­ri­ence as a cus­tomer that I hope won't be (but fear might be) a new trend in cus­tomer communications.

I called my phone com­pany to change some fea­tures of my ser­vice. After a pleas­ant, effi­cient, and per­fectly ade­quate trans­ac­tion, the cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive ended the call by ask­ing me, in a hope­ful tone, "If a third party were to con­tact you regard­ing your level of sat­is­fac­tion with my ser­vice today, would you be likely to say that you were either sat­is­fied or very satisfied?"

Right there and then, my sat­is­fac­tion level dropped sig­nif­i­cantly.  Although I couldn't imme­di­ately iden­tify what irked me so much about this odd con­clu­sion to the call, I intu­itively felt that it rep­re­sented a back­ward step in what I'll call the "cus­tomer expe­ri­ence movement."

Was it the wonky syn­tax of the ques­tion?  The lack of options for any rat­ing below "sat­is­fied"? The intro­duc­tion of a hypo­thet­i­cal third party who would ask me the exact same ques­tion that the first party was ask­ing me right there and then? I'm still not sure. But I do know that it had noth­ing to do with the cus­tomer ser­vice rep herself–she did just fine.

We hung up, but the call lin­gered in my mind (espe­cially because as I men­tioned above, this wasn't an iso­lated inci­dent). Here's a behe­moth com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany who likely spent hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars plan­ning and exe­cut­ing this cus­tomer feed­back cam­paign. How can they pos­si­bly believe, in late 2009, that this is a win­ning strategy?

I'm all for com­pa­nies polling their cus­tomers and using that data to improve prod­ucts, ser­vices, and poli­cies. It just seems to me that their method for doing so ought to be one which:  a) encour­ages hon­est, open, and spe­cific feed­back;  b) rec­og­nizes that the feed­back chan­nel is part of the customer's expe­ri­ence and should there­fore aim to make it a pleas­ant one; and  c) gath­ers infor­ma­tion not only on the trans­ac­tion but on the customer's over­all impres­sion of the com­pany. For me, the phone com­pany missed the mark on all three criteria.

When on the call, I didn't have the pres­ence of mind to give this feed­back directly to the cus­tomer ser­vice rep (and besides, I sus­pect that doing so would have unfairly resulted in a less-than-stellar rat­ing for her indi­vid­ual performance).

I did attempt to com­plete a feed­back form on the company's web­site, but oddly the auto­mated sys­tem wasn't set up to receive feed­back from cus­tomers regard­ing the topic of cus­tomer feedback.

So, I don't mean to sound snarky, but I'm just won­der­ing: Can they hear me now?

Vasudha leads the Per­for­mance Solu­tions Team at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, reg­u­larly work­ing with lead­ing com­pa­nies to improve per­for­mance of their customer-facing ser­vice, sup­port, and sales teams. She is a lead devel­oper of Impact's suite of train­ing courses and has authored four books, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games, all pub­lished by McGraw-Hill.
5 If You’re Going to Ask If I’m Pleased, Please Do So In a Way That Pleases Me
Vasudha Deming
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