On the side of a bottle of spring water I bought recently was this message: “We would like to hear from you.”
Why? For what possible reason would I contact the company? No one is calling their 800 number to say, “Hi, just wanted to tell you your product is delicious!” or “Your screw-off cap is remarkably easy to use!” or “The ridges on the side of the bottle make it so sexy!”
So, why does the spring water company want customer feedback? Because you can’t be in business today without pretending you care about every customer’s opinion. They all want to get five stars on Yelp or Google or Amazon, because so many people can’t make a purchase before finding out what others thought of it. “What, this water only has four stars? I’m definitely not going to buy that!”
Worse than that are the entreaties we all get to answer surveys after we’ve dealt with any corporation. “After this call, please stay on the line to answer two quick questions about our service.” Or a follow-up email asking me to rate various aspects of an online interaction. I almost never do that because the questions are too generic and don’t reflect the experience I’ve just had with that particular customer service agent. I said “almost never” because I do want to praise those who have really helped me, especially those who have gone above and beyond to try to solve my problem. When I do get special service and they ask me to fill out the survey, I tell them, “I’ll do it only if you’re going to get the credit for doing such a good job.” Often, they’ll reply that there’s a special code embedded in the email or text message that points to them.
I’ll do the same in a restaurant when a server is especially attentive (without being annoying). I get the attention of the manager and be sure they get direct feedback about what a good job that employee has done.
Most people do exactly the opposite. They only contact a company when they have a complaint. Even if they know their message won’t affect anything, they just have to spout off to someone. Whether it’s a one-star online review or a loud whining sound you can hear from the next county, they won’t be happy until everyone knows that the ranch dressing they purchased was a little bit tart.
Sadly, too many managers react disproportionately to a minor amount of negative feedback, forgetting that the overwhelming majority of people who bought or used their service or product were actually quite happy with it, but didn’t even consider saying so.
During my radio career, I worked for one General Manager with a too-thin skin who went nuts over a single complaint call, demanding I report to his office to be taken to task. After he had yelled at me for a minute or two, I offered neither an explanation nor an apology. I replied, “Instead of browbeating me over a single listener’s reaction, how about this? Next time you hear from someone who disagrees with what I say on my show, give them the listener line number so they can take it up with me personally on the air. You may not realize it because you don’t have the radio on in your office, but that’s what I do for a living.”
Maybe I should tell the spring water people something similar. “Look, you fill bottles of water for a living. I’m pretty sure you can continue to do that without my reporting whether I loved drinking it.”
Even if I said I didn’t, what would they change? “Now with more hydrogen!”