I have long been a proponent of feedback. Years before my training as an executive coach or social worker, I believed in the importance of letting someone know of my appreciation for a job well done, or if there was a big disconnect between my expectations and whatever job was at hand. It felt like a responsibility, as I know I would want to know if there were some way I was not meeting an agreement, and I love to hear when I’ve got it right. How are people supposed to grow without it?
The feedback I learned in my organizational consulting training was much more about description than our perceptions of “good” or “bad,” so that people could listen and decide for themselves what needed tweaking or a complete do-over. This was a challenge in itself, but an important skill in encouraging someone to evaluate his or her own performance without the clouding overlay of someone else’s judgement.
In the last few years I was at first really pleased at the increase in surveys after some experience —- at the doctor’s office, the car dealer, or retail store. Given my philosophy, I was diligent about taking the time to fill out and mail back these earnest attempts to improve service. However, recently there has been an explosive upsurge in requesting this “feedback,” particularly with the ease of sending email, and resending and resending til it feels like a screaming (but politely worded) demand.
I have become irritable with not only the volume and frequency, but often the length of the freaking surveys, which should be commensurate with the service. When I had my rotator cuff repaired, there were a lot of moving parts (so to speak) to the procedure, and it was extremely important to me and my health. I was happy to answer questions about the various aspects of this treatment.
However, if I’m buying a tee shirt online, I am not willing to profess at length about my experience. I shopped, I bought, I checked out. Yes, I suppose each one of those phases can be parsed and evaluated, but really?! If it were a complicated order, or required customer service to figure out sizing or a color match for a wedding, I might comment.
At a recent oil change, the gentleman who processed my paperwork leaned in confidentially and advised me that I will be receiving an email survey and that it didn’t really count unless he had five star ratings, so would I please consider that. Talk about getting a bee in my bonnet! The service was fine, and everyone was pleasant, but I am not going to be coerced into handing out a five star rating. In fact the time before I had an unusual light on in my car, which took extra time to fix, but they went out of their way to keep me posted and threw in a free oil change because it took so many hours. That’s worth rating, but if we’re supposed to comment on every pack of gum we purchase, or bag of dog food we run in to pick up, we’ll be spending as much time commenting on our experience as living it. Good intentions have gone out of balance.
As I was thinking about writing this a couple of weeks ago, I peered out at the torrential rain and realized that every day but one looked like rain for our upcoming week’s vacation. Determined to enjoy being outdoors in Provence, I started looking for rain boots. Too late even for Amazon Prime, I called LL Bean when I spotted low yellow boots that looked perfect. They did have my size and color there at the store 20 miles away. “Do you need them tonight?” asked the salesperson.
“No, but I need them when we leave tomorrow afternoon,” I replied.
“Well, do you have to come here? Where are you coming from?” I interpreted this question literally, not philosophically and told her where I live and she exclaimed, “I live the next town over, right on the border!”
“Oh you’re right on my bike route!” I blurted out.
“Hey, I’m leaving here in a few minutes. I’ll drop them off at your house.” I protested that I would be out, and she brushed that aside, asking where she could leave them. We completed the purchase over the phone and indeed when I returned home that evening my yellow boots were tucked near the back door. Free delivery. Now that’s what I call exceptional (and completely unexpected) service. And no survey has hit my mailbox, electronic or otherwise. But I will go out of my way to let Bean know that their employee went above and beyond, with grace and good humor. That’s what I call feedback.