Take a look at this online survey on attitudes to a leading UK bank that popped up a month or so ago when browsing ft.com. I am asked to say if I agree with the following statements (helpfully, I am also told that I can select all 5 responses, if the mood so takes me):
- …has the expertise to be a leading partner to UK business
- …serves and supports UK business
- …helps make its customers more successful
- …helps make the UK economically stronger
- …demonstrates leadership on key issues that matter to my organisation
Now, this is clearly just a piece of fairly innocuous puff to fuel some sort of PR message, and we can all smile wryly and move on. That said, it hasn’t done anything to improve my perception of the bank concerned because obviously, someone somewhere must have felt this was a good idea, worth spending time and money on.
Some surveys that try a little too hard to lead the witness also have a darker side. This is where the outcome is linked to personal reward or recognition.
When the well-intentioned idea becomes hostage to the law of unintended consequences.
I was recently reminded of this when I picked up a prescription at a leading pharmacy brand. We’re probably all familiar with the scenario: you queue to hand the prescription in, you’re told to come back in 15 minutes, and then you collect it from a different counter. For once I wasn’t told to go away, and the same person handled the whole transaction in around a minute. I mumbled “gosh, that was quick” and then the pharmacist, sensing a happy customer, wrote his name on my till receipt and asked me to take part in the online survey mentioned on the back of it. Now, chances are, if I’d had a very different experience, say where it took much longer than promised or they’d run out of the product, I suspect he’d have acted very differently.
Such stories – when personal intervention can, in effect, ‘lead the witness’ – are legion on the web. Take a look at this example, from the Consumerist site in April, where a pizza company in the US is offering a $1 discount off the next order provided you score the experience you’ve just had a 5 out of 5. As you can see from the photo, the process to claim the discount involves some ingenuity – all helpfully explained – to work around the system.
So, if your organisation is truly intent on listening to the authentic voice of the customer, then avoid the witness being lead! The first rule of survey completion should be to avoid putting the invitation to complete the survey in the hands of people who personally stand to gain from positive responses.