How did we do? Tell us, tell us, puhleeeze…

…or “The rise of the post-purchase survey”

It seems you can’t buy a product or service anymore without receiving a survey about some aspect of it.

I’ve recently done a fair amount of travel, and my email or SMS inbox has been cluttered with pleading survey invites from:

  • Holiday Inn
  • Mercure
  • Sofitel
  • Premier Inn
  • Eurostar
  • Virgin Trains

Usually within 24 hours of you having consumed the service, you get a mithering “Please tell us what you thought” email, which links to a survey.

These organisations must think we have all the time in the world to respond to a load of tedious questioning which, at the end of the day doesn’t capture our personal journey with them at all, despite what they promise.

They can’t read all the survey responses. The data is just rolled up into spreadsheets and charts that help them make (or miss) their “key performance indicators”.

Usually, each survey normally takes around 10 to 15 minutes to complete. That’s 90 minutes of my time that these companies are asking me to give them, for the privilege of buying a service from them.

Yes, I know I don’t have to fill them in, and I’ve largely stopped completing them.

With credit to Holiday Inn, Mercure and Sofitel, they all have a link to “unsubscribe” from receiving future survey invitations. Though I’ll have to see if these actually work. I remain sceptical.

However, this isn’t the case with the last three.

Premier Inn are one of the worst. They send email survey requests with no unsubscribe link. The surveys are long, too. Often 15-30 minutes.

Virgin Trains are slightly better, at least they usually only ask you one question, but I still don’t recall there ever being a way to unsubscribe from their surveys.

Eurostar was just downright baffling. On the way back from Paris, the moment my train left the Channel Tunnel I get this:file-10-02-2017-11-54-44

Followed by these questions, coming from a completely different number:

The first question, I’d have actually liked to score a “N/A” on, as I didn’t actually interact with any Eurostar staff Gare du Nord at all. There were a lot of them standing around with radios looking like they might be important, and occasionally “hustling” late arrivers through to their train, but that was it.

I already had my ticket. I just scanned it on the turnstile and went through the various border and immigration formalities. They did an okay job of marshalling the queues. One of them sort of stood in my way with his back to me at one point, but I didn’t otherwise talk to them nor really have any need to. That’s why I gave it a 5. Neither impressed nor unimpressed.

The second question is more baffling. They have sent me the question about whether I would recommend Eurostar before my journey is complete. I can’t actually answer it yet, because for all I know the train could yet be delayed, or even explode in an enormous fireball, though I think I’d probably only give them a 1 if the fireball happened.

The third question just confirms my suspicions that no-one really reads this stuff. It’s all just parcelled up into a dull spreadsheet. They must send thousands of these a day, and must at least get a few hundred responses.

They are asking this stuff “because they can”, not because they actually care about our individual experiences. These surveys are just providing a barometer of whether there is an upward or downward trend, whether things are meeting an arbitrary target or not, and at their most cynical, providing a means for fat-cat managers to receive bonuses.

The best way to judge how your business is running is to get out on the shop floor. Actually talk to your customers. Listen to your staff. They are your bell-weather.

Also encourage your customers to give direct feedback, then and there. Hilton have recently done this with a “Make it right” policy which lets customers know that they should make their feelings known then and there to the hotel in question, and give them a chance to deal with any shortcomings in service. It also empowers the hotel operators to take corrective action on the spot.

Compare that to a situation at Premier Inn a few years ago where the disenfranchised and under empowered staff member was “Meh, here’s your money back. Take it up with management if you like. Here’s the URL of the complaints form.”

Finally, what’s more annoying to me with these sorts of surveys is that at the point of purchase, while there is usually a means to opt-out of marketing email, there isn’t a means to opt-out of this sort of mithering, because it isn’t considered “marketing”.

So, here’s what I plan to do, should I respond to these:

Write something totally outrageous in the free form text boxes, along with an invite to contact me if someone has actually read what’s been written. That will at least I might get a feel for how many of these are seen by humans!

Post-script: While I was writing this, I got another survey mither from where I ate on Wednesday night, this time from OpenTable on behalf of @HawksmoorMCR. I’m really surprised by that because it’s so orthogonal to their non-corporate house-style when you go and eat there.