Ex-Borders Manager: Here’s Why Only Perfect Scores Matter On Customer Service Surveys

Why is it that when we take customer service surveys, store employees beg us to either give them a perfect score or not bother? Reader C. used to work for a now-defunct retailer whose name rhymes with “disorders.” She was in management, and explains why a perfect score, and only a perfect score, counts.

When everything from a festive pizza party to managers’ prospects within the company depend on getting unrealistic survey grades, some people aspire to go above and beyond all the time… and others decide that perfection is impossible. No retailer can provide service that’s a 11 out of 10 all of the time.

Here’s why Pizza Hut was probably begging for 5s and we used to as well: there were significant metrics and bonuses tied to getting 5s. If ten customers took the survey, gave us 4s, and left glowing comments, we got zero credit, and in fact management would get in serious trouble if we only produced 4s. Everything from free pizza for the employees to modest bonuses for managers to potentially being promoted higher up were all hinged on a handful of metrics, and getting a 5 (ONLY A 5) was what counted.

What sucked was that many in the company freely admitted that psychologically most people will pick a 4 if they have a good experience, so we had to consistently move beyond “hey that was a pleasant time buying a book” to “THIS IS THE GREATEST STORE IN THE UNIVERSE” to get a 5.

Or we could freely admit to customers who received the survey that only a 5 gave us credit, and if we didn’t deserve the 5 please don’t take the survey.

It’s a pretty messed up system, and the pressure on everyone from cashiers to upper management to get those mythical high scores was pretty intense.

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