How to Stop Employees From Survey Begging

7
944

Share on LinkedIn

We’ve all experienced survey begging.

Sometimes, employees offer an incentive. My nephew was recently offered free food in exchange for giving a fast food restaurant all 10s on their survey.

Other times, employees try to pull on our heart strings. They tell customers they’ll get in trouble if they don’t receive a good score. 

My friend Halelly recounted a recent experience taking her car into the dealership for service. “The (service advisor) coached me in person when I got the car serviced and has now sent me this email too.”

The email warned Halelly that she would be getting a survey from the dealership and possibly the manufacturer. The advisor wrote:

We would greatly appreciate your time to complete the surveys. Anything other than all 10’s is considered a fail.

This post explains why employees engage in survey begging. It also explains how you can stop them from this annoying habit.

Survey Begging Defined

Here’s my definition of survey begging:

Asking a customer to give a positive score on a survey by explaining how it will directly benefit the customer, the employee, or both.

Here are a few examples:

  • Offering customers discounts in exchange for a good score
  • Telling customers a bad survey will get you fired
  • Displaying “We strive for five” or similar signs
  • Directly asking customers for a positive survey score
  • Ignoring actual feedback that’s not attached to a positive score

Side note: this definition is a first draft, so I welcome your feedback!

Why It’s a Problem

Survey begging causes two problems.

First, it’s annoying. Customers don’t like being begged and cajoled into giving a survey score. This practice reinforces the perception that companies aren’t really using voice of customer data to improve service.

The second problem is survey begging can cover up real service issues by artificially inflating scores. Customers might start spending less or stop doing business with a company entirely, without the company ever understanding what’s causing the problem.

In other words, survey begging defeats the purpose of using a survey.

Why Employees Survey Beg

It’s all about incentives.

Employees engage in survey begging because they have a clear incentive to achieve a high score or a strong incentive to avoid getting a low score.

Some employees have bonuses tied to their average survey score. This incentivizes them to ask customers for good scores because those positive surveys are literally adding to their paycheck. A slightly negative, but truthful survey might prevent an employee from earning her bonus.

Other employees can face disciplinary action if they receive too many low scores. One automotive service advisor told me he only pushes the survey to customers he thinks are happy because he could lose his job if he gets too many low scores.

Survey begging happens in many industries, but it’s a particularly big problem in the automotive sector. Here’s a great article on Edmunds.com that explains why.

The bottom line is if you want to stop the begging, you need to remove the begging incentive.

Getting Rid of Incentives

Many customer service managers are reluctant to get rid of survey incentives.

They operate under the false assumption that employees need these incentives to be motivated. There’s a mountain of evidence that shows this isn’t true. In fact, the number one motivator for customer service employees is being able to help their customers.

I wrote about a great example of this in my book, Service Failure. The Westin Portland was achieving consistently high guest service scores. Then General Manager Chris Lorino explained that part of their success came from a resistance to implementing survey score incentives. 

Instead, the hotel made guest service a core part of each associate’s job. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“Associates coach and encourage each other to deliver high levels of service that will help them achieve their (guest satisfaction) goals. The hotel’s leadership team regularly discusses guest feedback with the associates and encourages people to share ideas that will improve service even further.”

Other managers are concerned that eliminating incentives makes it difficult to monitor employee performance through survey scores.

The problem is survey begging artificially inflates survey scores, so you end up rewarding employees who are best at begging, not best at service. 

A better approach is to use survey feedback to manage behaviors. For example, if an employee frequently gets surveys saying he is a little abrupt, you can coach him on ways to create a better impression.

Surveys can be a valuable tool for assessing and improving customer service. But, they also have some drawbacks like survey begging. 

This short video explains a few other challenges.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

7 COMMENTS

  1. This isn’t about surveys, per se. And, neither is it, per se, about using employees to push for a result, without taking the employee experience into consideration. It’s principally about the superordinate goals, strategies, and culture of the organization.

    We’ve seen the flip side of this, such as the Comcast employee who was recorded virtually refusing exit to let a customer who wished to cancel his service. This was far less about the employee than it was about the organization’s focus on profitability, customer needs and desires be damned.

  2. Hi Jeff – first, thanks for exposing this issue. I can still see the survey form which the car sales rep handed me after I purchased my last vehicle. He had thoughtfully highlighted in yellow the top scoring responses to save me any trouble in finding them.

    I think ‘survey abuse’ better describes what goes on, rather than ‘survey begging.’ There are degrees to which influence can be exerted, and it’s hard to define exactly what constitutes abuse. My definition is: ‘after the transaction or service has been completed, any employee action that influences, or attempts to influence, a customer to provide a higher rating than he or she might have provided.’

    Plenty of fuzzwords in that definition, and employees would be right to ask, ‘what about, what about, and what about . . . .’ And those questions should be answered with specifics about what is not allowed. And management cannot hedge by saying, ‘we’ll figure it out as we go along,’ or, ‘I know it when I see it.’ Certainly, what I encountered belongs on the list.

    But many times, there’s an extra bit of service provided with proximate timing to the survey. A high-value trinket like a nalgene bottle given to the customer. An extra effort to tidy up the car before handing it over. Or giving the customer a quality chocolate candy along with the survey form. Would those be restricted if they were provided for the specific purpose of garnering a higher rating – which, after all, they are?

    Overall, your point that the root problem exists in the incentives that are designed to motivate employees is one that I agree with. I’m not a fan of companies abdicating their employee pay decisions to customers. Research has uncovered that customers can have different satisfaction ratings depending on the race and gender of who provided the service, even though the service has been controlled as identical in the experiment. This perpetuates race and gender bias in pay, though it’s under the guise of customer satisfaction ratings. (I wrote an article on this in 2009, Race and Gender Impact Employee Customer Service Bonuses.)

  3. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Andrew.

    You raise a tricky issue. If an employee does something extra for a customer that’s timed to occur shortly before a surveyed offered, is that necessarily a problem? What if the employee makes no mention of the survey?

    In my opinion, I see a distinction between explicitly asking for a survey score and serving customers in such a way that would make them more likely to give a higher score.

  4. Excellent article, Jeff. Useful read. Provokes you to have a long and hard look at your customer service feedback collection process. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at hiverhq.com)

ADD YOUR COMMENT

Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here