by Kris Neri at the Femmes Fatales
Surveys have become a part of modern life. We’re asked to do them for business that provide all the goods and services we buy. Everything from grocery stores to doctors’ and dentists’ offices demand them. We’ve discussed them here before, and if memory serves, most of us could live without them. Of course, nobody can force us to do them. And if we do have an issue with an establishment, a survey does provide us with a chance to express that.
Unless, that is, they try to subvert our concerns.
At one of the hotels we stayed at during our recent Arizona vacation, a copy of the bill was pushed under the door before our last morning there, as if usually is in hotels. Only this time, what we received wasn’t just a copy of the bill.
We also received a letter from the hotel’s general manager, advising us of the survey that we’d receive in the coming days, and asking us to give our stay there the highest possible rating. The letter did indicate that the GM didn’t want us to write anything we didn’t believe. But if we did feel inclined to rate the hotel lower, she begged us to discuss the issue with her first, and she promise to fix whatever troubled us, after which we would have no reason not to give her establishment that highest possible rating.
But how is it possible to fix someone’s issues when that person is leaving? How can she change what happened in the past?
I had two issues during my stay there.
One was a pool that was ice cold. In mid-September here in the Southwest, it’s hard to get a pool so cold that every guest who tried swimming or jumping into it complained bitterly. If anything, they tend to be too warm. My guess is that they had to drain it for some reason and only recently refilled it. It simply hadn’t had enough time in the sun for it to warm up. But judging by the water coming out of the filter, they weren’t heating it, either. There wasn’t even a sign apologizing for the temperature. That told me they simply didn’t care how it affected their guests.
So, how does someone fix that for the guests who are leaving? She might have indicated that it would be warmer for other guests in the week or so it would take to warm up in the sun, but how would that make it so superior during my stay that I would have to indicate that on the survey?
My other objection concerned their desk clerks. They never greeted guests when they passed by, flipping instead through the texts on their phones. When I needed something from them and stopped by the desk, it also took them a while to look up from their phones. I don’t mean just one clerk, either, who happened to glance at his or her phone when I happened to pass by. I’m talking about one clerk after another. Heads always down, always looking at their phones.
Now, that wasn’t a one-time occurrence like the pool. It was an ongoing pattern of behavior, and one that presumably she should have noticed — and fixed — before we arrived. Perhaps if I had spoken to her, she would have changed her employees’ behaviors and attitudes. But if she hadn’t cared enough to insist on better customer service before that, what incentive would she have had after we left?
Normally, I don’t believe there’s that much to be gained from surveys, for either the customer or the company. At times when I’ve done them I’ve thought the questions attempted to lead the survey-taker to the answer the company clearly waned. Doesn’t that defeat the point? And surely they appeal most strongly to the whiners among us and those who live to find fault with others so that they can feel superior.
Naturally I did that hotel’s survey. The general manager’s attempt to stop me annoyed me too much not to. I guess that means I just placed myself in the whiner camp, though in my own defense, I also pointed out the aspects of our stay there that I did like.
To balance the negativity I felt I had to direct at this establishment, I also did a survey for the hotel we stayed in before this one. That’s something I probably wouldn’t have done. But by contrast, that first hotel was so much better, and since I was ratting out the second, I thought I should give the first the praise that was do.
Still, I’ll go back to mostly giving surveys a pass again now. Shouldn’t outstanding service be the norm, after all? Shouldn’t companies have to do the hard work of knowing that they achieve it?
How about you? Where do you fall on the survey issue? Have you ever felt some are worth doing?