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.