Enough with the “How Did We Do?” surveys

When I returned a rental car, recently, I received a bit too friendly service, followed by a request for a favor to rate the agent a 5 on the survey that would be sent to me shortly.

I chuckled. The agent asked why.

I said, I used to work on the other side of these surveys and they lose effectiveness when you lead the customer on how to answer.

She replied, “But that’s how we get promoted and I want a promotion!”

Fair point. The problem is the incentives her company gives her. They are managing to the wrong outputs. In this case, they are promoting people who are really good at asking for 5’s rather than people who may be really good for their business.

As a customer, I feel I’ve held up my end of the bargain when I decided to use that company and paid.

It puts me off to be made to feel I owe the company and agent more of my time to rate the experience or that I should donate my time to help them make their business better.

I’ve seen these types of surveys become infiltrate the business world like buzzwords. It’s just a foregone conclusion that they must be done.

In my experience, little benefit comes from them. When I’ve asked folks at companies I’ve worked with for examples of how these types of surveys have led to changes that resulted in significant and tangible benefits, crickets.

But, they continue with the surveys because they have become conventional business wisdom and the folks whose job it is to conduct the surveys have become vested interests protecting their turf.


Resume builders vs value builders

Bureaucracies are filled with people more interested in building their resume than building value for the company.

Resume builders are good at making it look like they are valuable, but when you step back and ask what have they contributed to make the company better that has resulted in more revenue or more efficient operations, you come up empty.

They use a lot of tricks, though, to keep people from thinking that far. Here are a few.

Check the box. These folks seek activities where they are told what to do. From this, they can create a list of actions and check the box when each action is completed and claim success. And, if those actions generate value, they can claim credit for that. If not, they can deflect and claim success for having completed tasks.

Busy schedules. These folks like to keep busy schedules. Busy makes them look valuable. But 80% of this busy-ness is vaporware.

Noise making. They will say something in all meetings that they are in. If you pay close attention, they rarely say anything of value. But, they know that’s not what’s remembered. People just remember if you said anything at al. Say something and think you were actively engaged and therefore adding value.

Empty actions. When all else fails, do something and claim credit for it. This may be better to illustrate with an example. When one manager was starting to be found out that he was adding little value, he created a training program for his associates and sold it that he was upgrading his teams skills. That diverted attention away from the questions of what value he was adding.

Now, did any of his team actually get better at any of their new skills? Not really. Did their new skills help the organization in any way? No. Just more vaporware.

Buzzword and buzz phrase bingo. By mastering the current buzzwords, they create the perception that they are in the know with the latest and greatest. A recent example of this is “we’re standing up a group do address” such and such. All the resume builders seem to be going crazy ‘standing up’ groups lately. Somehow ‘standing up’ sounds better than ‘starting’. Also, it somehow keeps people from asking basic questions, like how exactly is that new group going to add value? It is just assumed it will.

I think there are a couple reasons this can persist. First, the tricks work. People are fooled into conflating the stuff above with adding value.

Second, for those who do notice the tricks, they won’t call them out because they are pulling the same tricks and also do not want to be called out.