Do You Survey Your Callers?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As a consumer, I have a love-hate response to surveys. Sometimes I dismiss them and feel guilty. Other times I take them and feel like I’ve wasted my time. I group surveys in four categories:

Market Research: The first type of survey is market research. All those who complete the survey have a chance to win some great prize. I’m enticed by the possible reward, but most of the time I am unable to complete the survey because I fall outside the target demographic or the survey ends prematurely when I give an unacceptable response. Because of this I’ve stopped taking these kinds of surveys. Besides, I’m cynical enough to wonder if anyone actually wins the prize.

The Sales Call: This ploy is a sales pitch disguised as a survey. If you answer their questions correctly – that is, identify yourself as a prospect – your “reward” is a sales pitch. These surveys, often presented as research, appeal to one’s sense of civic duty or the opportunity to influence some important decision. Companies have duped me enough times that I skip these surveys as well.

Subverted by Employees: After completing a transaction, the sales person or customer service rep implores me to take their survey, usually in a most enthusiastic manner. Often they say – or at least imply – that if I fail to do so, they could get in trouble. Once I commit to participate, they then tell me what scores to give them. “Make sure you give me all fives,” they say. “Anything less – even a four – is a failure.” Their bonus or even job is at stake. Will I help them out?

Masterful at their plea, it’s hard not to comply. But their effort to game the system disgusts me. My response is to give them all ones. My wife says that’s a terrible thing to do; I say it’s terrible for employees to mislead their employer with faulty ratings. The last time this happened, my wife took the survey to keep me from carrying out my threat.

Company Centric: The final type of survey is also a customer service evaluation, but when considering the questions, they seldom truly address the customer and actually focus on the company.

Many common questions – such as hold time, speed to answer, first call resolution, agent courtesy, and so forth – appear to address customer service issues but actually miss doing so. In reality, these only serve to feed into some corporate metric assumed to measure customer service. Call centers can achieve their statistical goals yet still not provide optimum service to callers.

To counter this weakness, some surveys ask, “Based only on this call, would you recommend us to your friends?” Although this infers customer satisfaction at a basic level, it still falls short. I doubt I would ever recommend a company based solely on one call. My enthusiasm or lack thereof comes from multiple interactions and the overall utility of a company’s product or service. Each subsequent transaction moves my view up or down. One call cannot be considered in isolation.

In reality, I complete surveys for companies I care about. If they don’t matter to me, I won’t invest my time to give them feedback. I want to help them become better. And since I already care about them and am willing to give my time, I don’t appreciate being asked to participate in a survey that disrespects me.

Whenever I contact a company, there’s a reason behind it – an objective or a purpose. That implies the primary survey question. Don’t ask if I was placed on hold, had to wait too long, needed to make multiple calls, or am willing to recommend them. Simply ask if they fully addressed the reason for my call.

The next item should consider if I’m happy with how they served me. Don’t assume what metrics address this; just ask if I’m pleased.

For the third and final item, provide an option for additional comments. Surveys imply a desire to hear what customers think, so they should be sure to provide the opportunity to share.

So here’s the survey I’d like to take but haven’t seen yet:

1) Did you accomplish the reason for your call?

2) Are you pleased with how we did?

3) Do you have any other comments for us?

Thanks for asking.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine October 2013]