Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Satisfaction That Just Doesn't Add Up

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Satisfaction That Just Doesn't Add Up

Article excerpt

We're living in a period of ongoing cultural self-examination that future historians may refer to as the "Tell Us What You Think" era. Everybody seems to have an opinion about everything, and there is no shortage of opportunities for expressing your views to a wide audience. The desire to know what is on people's minds is becoming especially prevalent in the business world.

Wherever I turn these days, I find myself bumping up against companies that are determined to find out exactly how I feel about their product or service. Travelers encounter this trend quite often because modern hotels love to get feedback from their clients. How'd your visit go? Things work out OK? Take a moment and help us improve our service.

Now, I don't mind responding to customer surveys, but it's exhausting to fill out a form that's longer than the Declaration of Independence, especially when many of the questions aren't soliciting what I'd call vital information.

"How did the room smell?" is the kind of inquiry that sets off alarm bells in my head. I don't usually notice smells unless they're intense, like a rotting compost heap under the bed. Why would a hotel ask me this? It makes me worry that perhaps the management is secretly allowing bizarre cults or other lowbrow clients to engage in dreadful activities that leave behind telltale odors.

It's also difficult to express my degree of approval for small appliances such as the hairdryer in the bathroom. How would I honestly know if its performance was good, very good, or excellent? Hey, it dried my hair. I'm OK, it's OK.

I think a perfectly useful hotel survey card only needs about two questions.

The first one would say "When you walked into the room, did you experience (a) happiness (b) disappointment or (c) revulsion?"

The second question would be "What can we do to make this place better? …

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