Ask The Consumerist: Is There Any Point To All These Stupid Surveys?

((Courtesy of Rachel))

Rachel is sick of surveys and writes in to ask if we think they serve any purpose.

Rachel writes:

Here’s what Saturday was like for me: Go to IHOP with my husband; please fill out our survey. Get medication at Walgreen; please fill out our survey. Grab a coffee at Caribou; please fill out our survey. Get a call from my mortgage company; survey. Buy some closes from Old Navy; survey. Take car for an oil change… I think you know what happens next.

When did this happen? And why? I don’t want to fill out a survey. I don’t think they’re helpful.

Do they really help a company to make changes? Or does it just get some poor guy making a barely livable wage yelled at?

Most importantly, what can I do as a consumer not to contribute to this in any way? I want to give an amazing employee props and I want to bring egregious practices to managements attention, but I don’t like these surveys. Not one bit.

Well, Rachel… The thing is with surveys is that they are only as good as the company you’re dealing with.  A lot of unintended consequences and weird  policies can be traced back to them. You would probably be sort of horrified to see the sheer number of decisions that companies make based on these survey results.

But let’s take your questions one by one: Do they really help a company make changes? Again, it depends on the company, but let’s assume we’re talking about your average soulless, faceless corporation. If someone at Soulless Enterprises has a theory that “xyz improved policy” could lead to better customer satisfaction, they’re going to need to demonstrate that to their bosses somehow. One way is to test it and then take a bunch of surveys.

Will some poor guy yelled at? Again, it depends on the company. Soulless Enterprises probably has some customer satisfaction metric that it assigns goals around and, at the end of the quarter, poor guy’s team might get a smackdown if they don’t meet it. Will he personally get yelled at? We certainly hope not, but anything is possible.

What can you do as a customer?  Companies do pay attention to survey results, but it’s all about who is interpreting the data and what they have in mind. You’re providing them with supporting material for their internal arguments. If you like a company and want to help them out, providing them with honest data is a nice thing to do, but there’s no guarantee that it won’t be interpreted by complete jackasses. Jackasses need jobs, too.

If you’re really more interested in commending an individual employee who did a spectacular job, we’ve always thought that writing a letter to the CEO or corporate office was a great thing to do.  We recommend one or two paragraphs of effusive praise that is rather light on details. If someone bent a rule for you the last thing you want to do is rat them out. And, of course, you can always write us and tell us about your experience. People don’t send us enough good news.

And now we have to post a poll to see if you are sick of surveys. Because we’re jackasses, too.

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