Once upon a time in a job far, far away someone asked me how to tell if service staff were doing OK. I said ‘how about asking a few of those on the receiving end’.
This went down like a mild dose of dysentery, although I couldn’t see the problem. I mean teachers judge their pupils, or bank managers judge their customers, so what’s wrong with the reverse? Asking the ‘servees’ what they thought of their ‘server’ is slightly better way of judging how they are doing than whether anyone complains, or simply doesn’t come back.
Fast forward a few years to today and what do I find? I am inundated by requests for ‘feedback’ from any set-up that has just given me an answer to a query. Or serviced my car. Or sold me a rubber duck on ebay?
The sheer volume is incredibly annoying, the subjects often insignificant.
I have had two particular exasperating examples. First, I own a Mercedes that went for a service. I was told on collection that I would be asked by email what I thought of the service and asked to give them top marks because anything less and their performance would be considered unsatisfactory. I don’t think they were expecting the kind of feedback from me that they received. Whether they were telling the truth, that management would accept nothing less, I doubted although the financial advisors at HSBC said much the same, either give us a five out of five or don’t complete.
Now, apart from the corruption of the process, this is a neat way of congratulating oneself because nothing anyone could say or do could improve on five out of five. It can’t be bettered. This is a neat irony – the system is intended to provide helpful feedback, but the way it is operated prevents such information being received.
Second, I could hardly credit an automated telephone message I received from a hospital where I enjoyed a week of their best care. I was asked to rate whether I would recommend that hospital to friends and family. What is the bureaucratic imperative behind such a request? Do they plan to advertise their charms? ‘8 out of10 patients who survived said ‘if you’re looking for cheap lodgings and a free meal, or simply a warm-up, this is the place to come’.
They can even sneak up on you via the ‘phone, which I think is definately off-side.
Not only do such demands occur frequently, they ask you to fit your experience into their form, presumably so they can add up the responses and reach some spurious conclusion that they claim applies to all of us. In fact a blank space asking us ‘What was your experience like?’ would provide much richer data, but unfortunately would require a bit of thoughtful analysis.
This week alone I asked the WordPress help outfit for advice and what do I get? A request to rate the advice ‘It was great’ through ‘Just OK’ to ‘Not good’. You cant just click on one but must answer the question about how they could improve.
Next, I bought something off ebay and feedback is needed to show I’m an OK buyer.
Next, almost any e-tail site gives you about twenty seconds before a pop-up asks what you think of their website.
I wonder if someday there will be a law which requires people to have an appraisal interview with their friends. ‘I’d just like to give you some feedback on your performance” as a friend/husband/wife/lover/relation (strike out those that do not apply). Then we might have websites called
‘Friend Advisor’ or ‘Husband Advisor’ or ‘Just someone I met down the pub Advisor’.
I once saw some quotes from an American Army appraisal system which included:
– a fine figure of a man astride a horse
– I have seen this man sober
– never makes the same mistake twice, but it seems to me that he has made them all once
– I wouldn’t breed from this man
Perhaps we have lost the appetite for such good quality abuse.