Category Archives: Management and Work

Bits and pieces on business and supervision – doing and undergoing – and working nicely (or not) with others.

Thank You for Completing Our Survey

Isabel, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions about your recent stay in our hotel.

Thinking about your check-in experience, please assign a number from -10 (Completely Disagree) to +10 (Completely Agree) to each of the following statements:

  • The canopy over the front entrance was impressive without being pretentious.
  • The slidiness of the sliding doors was exactly what I expect in a hotel of this quality.
  • The number of welcome mats was perfect for the size of the entrance.
  • The colour of the welcome mats provided a memorable designer-inspired transition from the driveway paving stones to the foyer tile.
  • Time spent waiting in line at check-in behind first-time users of credit cards and couples requiring counselling was less than what I’ve come to expect.
  • The desk staff greeted me as if they knew me, as per the hotel’s motto: Evincing Slightly Creepy Friendliness Without Achieving Any Actual Personal Connection.
  • The artistry of the pizza-joint ads on my keycard folder inspired me to retain it as a souvenir of my stay.

Now, Isabel, let’s move on to a few questions about your satisfaction with your experience of the decibel level of the school sports team in the breakfast room at 6:00 AM and in the hallway at 1:00 AM.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

Perhaps I don’t.

As a frequent hotel customer—what the industry likes to call a “guest”—I’m also a frequent recipient of email requests to complete satisfaction surveys.  It seems like less trouble to complete them than to try to ignore them: The senders can be bloody persistent.  While survey specifics vary by hotel chain, two principles are constant:

  • Too many questions about the minutiae of my “experience” wear me down before I’ve gone a full page. (Were there welcome mats?  I didn’t notice.)
  • Overly precise rating schemes confound my responses. (Do I even have 10 levels of agreement?  Of disagreement?  Good heavens.)

Trying to differentiate fine gradations of my satisfaction with factors I don’t actually care about makes me snarky, to about a level 9.  I find myself composing little notes for the Comments section.

“Oh, if only there had been one more welcome mat, I would definitely have scored Question #47 as an 8.  As it is, though, I just couldn’t go above a 7.”

Thank God for the “Not Applicable” response, which I invoke whenever I can.  If only there were options for “Didn’t Notice” and “Wouldn’t Care if I Had.”

Customer satisfaction research can be useful.  Like, to figure out why people choose one hotel over another.  Or to determine whether training is producing competent, uncreepy desk clerks.  Or to assess whether the welcome mats should be earth tones or jewel tones.  Whatever.

But I also think it’s instructive to see what other companies are doing in this regard.  Enter the fast-food burger joint whose in-store kiosk invited me to complete a satisfaction survey on the spot.  Less than thirty seconds later I was done!  Completely!

And completely clever, too.  The survey didn’t just measure my satisfaction.  It also defined their performance targets and managed my service expectations in just three yes/no questions:

  • Was your server friendly?
  • Was your food hot?
  • Was the restaurant clean?

I came away both amused and thoughtful, wondering what the equivalent three questions would be for the hotels I stay in.  Heck – what would they be for the life I ostensibly manage?  In both cases, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t include anything about the colour of the welcome mats or the slidiness of the sliding doors.


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Filed under Management and Work, New Perspectives

Is That the Best You Can Do?

Netflix traffic accounted for 34% of North America’s downloads
during the busiest hours of the day this year.
Drew Fitzgerald, Wall Street Journal, 2014 May 14

Maybe you already knew that Netflix accounts for one-third of internet downloads. But maybe you didn’t know that I accounted for another one-third of internet traffic this last week, downloading new software and uploading my documents and photos to online storage.

OK, not quite a full one-third share. But combined with our current Netflix preoccupation (“MI-5,” a BBC intelligence thriller with ten (count ’em, ten) seasons), my reconfiguration of my laptop and my foray into cloud storage did push us over the bandwidth limit on our internet package. A limit we’d never paid any attention to before, not in six years with this provider. It’s hard to get to 60 GB/month just by downloading Word files from shared work sites and uploading vacation photos to Google+ albums, 30 at a time.

But it turns out it’s quite easy to blow through 60 GB watching Netflix offerings—especially in the dog days of the network summer schedule—and uploading, oh, say, 30 GB in accumulated photos for backup. Just to pick a number out of the air.

Continue reading

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Filed under Management and Work

We Appreciate Your Business

Thank you for calling the blank-blank-blank. All of our associates/agents/technicians are currently serving other customers. We appreciate your business. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.

In the recovery period after the Great Crash, I’ve spent quite some time on the phone with various folks, reconstructing my suite of downloaded software. I’ve spent almost as much time on hold.

We appreciate your business and apologize for the delay. Call volumes are higher than normal.

Just my luck, eh? To have a hard drive fail when higher-than-normal numbers of other failures are occurring. What are the odds of that, do you suppose?   Continue reading

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Filed under Management and Work

We Know Where That Information Is

Have you seen a blue binder?

From his glassed-in perch, the bulldozer operator frowns for a moment at the note in his hand, looks down suspiciously at the guy with the mop of curly hair who is looking up at him hopefully, and then checks the note again. Yup, that’s what it says, all right.

Have you seen a blue binder?

The operator shakes his head, trying to look regretful rather than stupefied. As the guy with the mop of curly hair walks off, shoulders slumped, the operator reaches for a lever. The bulldozer lurches forward, pushing the next mound of garbage into the channel prepared for it, and life at the Saskatoon city dump goes on.   Continue reading

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Filed under Management and Work

Instructor, Instructee

Learning (in part) not to accept responsibility for another’s problem, and not to need to make others happy with me, and to accept my own rightful authority in a job.


He asked the same question six times.

I was indignant.

Yes, and you answered six times.

He was amused.  Continue reading

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Filed under Management and Work