Now that the number of customers walking through retail doors has decreased dramatically, the U.S. retail industry seems intent on conducting customer service surveys to figure out how to keep their shrinking customer base happy. What an innovative approach to a customer loyalty program! We can all count this as one of the positive aspects of the retail recession.
Customer satisfaction surveys seem to be plentiful, but retailers' changes based on those surveys seem to be in short supply. Customers who are providing feedback that retailers need to make improvements to their service experience are wondering why they're not seeing a tangible response to that feedback. Where is the evidence that retailers are serious about recovering from past service failures and creating a better experience for its customers in the future?
It really is so nice that so many retail companies want my opinion these days! I’m not sure at what point it became SOP for anybody who sells anything to print information on their receipts about the customer service survey they are anxious for me to complete. And I really don't know when they all found an extra $5,000 in their budget for the prize drawing they are anxious for me to win after I fill out their survey. I have yet to see evidence that anyone has ever been awarded any of those prize monies, and I also have yet to see that anyone has ever listened to any of my comments.
Recently I was sitting in a restaurant and my receipt on the table sparked this conversation with one of the store’s employees:
BRIAN: (Pointing to the receipt with the survey and make-believe drawing info on it), “Do you ever fill out that survey online?”
ME: “Yes, I’ve filled it out several times. Do you want to know what I say?”
BRIAN: (Taking a physical step backwards), “I don’t know about THAT.”
ME: “Here’s what I say every time… The food is always fresh, and the employees are always nice.” (Brian smiled.) “The store is always freezing, and the silverware always looks dirty.” (Brian laughed. Apparently it wasn’t the first time he had heard the temperature and/or silverware comment.)
BRIAN: “Okay, well, make sure you fill it out again so you can win $5,000.” (Brian walked away.)
Perhaps in the quest for successfully working the survey system, we’ve forgotten the purpose of gathering feedback. There are some basic survey do’s and don’ts, and if they’re ignored, the survey that’s supposed to help retailers can actually hurt them.
Not too long after that conversation I was back at the same restaurant again. The food was fresh, the employees were nice, the dining room was freezing and I pulled eight knives out of the silverware bin before I found a clean one.
Once again I went online and filled out that survey. I'm not sure if anything I say will ever change the restaurant's operations. At this point, I think I have a better chance of winning the $5,000. And we all know what those odds are.