You’ve just spent an exasperating hour or more on the phone with a bubbly customer service representative. The reason for your call may or may not have been resolved. You’re frustrated and feeling like you’ve just been through the ringer. Not five minutes later, you receive a friendly email asking, “How was your experience?”
They’re everywhere. Every time. Every trip to a store. Every call to customer service. Every delivery from a retail shipping service. Every doctor appointment — including a trip to the lab for a simple blood draw. We’ve even received a customer survey email after simply picking up a coffee to go.
And there’s the one that finally prompted us to write this column: a dental appointment.
It comes in automated phone calls, emails and text messages. “How was your experience?” “Please take a few minutes to answer our survey, “We’d like your feedback…” and so on.
But the dentist — really? How do you think my experience was? I mean, it’s the dentist.
We’ve all watched the frequency of these customer feedback requests increase in recent years, most of us with some degree of irritation. Maybe just an eye roll, but at times, actual annoyance. Especially when we’ve just spent a torturous hour or more on the phone with an agent from our internet service provider who was going to be “happy to help” us but who did not even almost resolve our issue. We just look at each other and laugh. Do they really want us to tell them how our experience was and to rate our level of, uh, satisfaction with the service we received?
For the most part, and like many of you, we have largely ignored these relentless requests for feedback.
Then the pandemic hit. And we started thinking.
We remembered an occasion last year when our car battery died in front of Nugget market and our insurance company dispatched an on-the-spot battery replacement service. It was pouring rain that day. We recall the young man who tested and replaced our battery telling us when he was done (and soaking wet) that we would be receiving a request for feedback from his company and that “When we get anything less than excellent ratings on customer surveys it counts against us.” We of course don’t know if he was being 100% honest, but since we had indeed received excellent service we had no problem completing the survey and saying so.
So back to the pandemic. What if our willingness to answer these surveys does significantly impact the employee evaluations of those front line workers who deliver our packages, check us out at the pharmacy or grocery store, and tend to us at the doctor’s office? What if customer feedback does make a difference for their job standing or even their pay or chances of promotion? These folks step up every day, risking their health and that of their loved ones to an unknown degree. Every day. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider those surveys we’ve grown accustomed to ignoring.
So we pay more attention now. We’re more likely to take the time to say yes to a request for feedback. To give a thumbs up when a package we ordered has been delivered on time and right to our doorstep. To say OK when asked if we’d answer a few questions following a medical appointment.
We’re taking a little more time to do these things, not because this pandemic has us bored enough to do so (although we know a few folks who have developed a pandemic pastime of completing customer surveys!), but because we want to acknowledge those essential workers for their efforts. And if it does help them out in any way related to their job security or pay grade or opportunity for advancement, we certainly can take a few minutes to support them.
Not all “How was your experience?” notifications merit a response. Pandemic boredom notwithstanding, most of us don’t have the time or inclination to deal with the volume of survey requests we receive nowadays. If we have just ordered something online and the entire process was automated, we likely will delete the email that follows the transaction asking us to fill out a questionnaire regarding our experience. However, when the package arrives safely on our front porch we will gladly note our satisfaction with the delivery person when asked.
And if we’re not in a situation where we’ll be sent a survey, we’ll find another way, albeit small, to say thanks to someone on the front line. We’ve become more conscientious about tipping. For example, when a Trader Joe’s employee shops for us and brings the groceries out to our car. Or a Starbucks barista hands us our coffees at the drive-thru with a smile and wishes us a nice day.
As life lessons from the pandemic go, we’ve learned to pause and take a few extra minutes to recognize the good people who serve us on so many levels. It feels good, and it’s worth it.
But we’re still not sure what to say when the dentist’s email arrives asking, “How was your experience?”