Opinion and Editorial

When ratings and reviews kill customer satisfaction

Iskra Fileva
Filed on July 7, 2020

On the face of it, customer satisfaction surveys seem like a terrific idea. Instead of having businesses guess what customers like or don't like - which is difficult and can take a long time - why not simply ask for feedback? And what better way is there to show commitment to improving service than listening to the people you are providing a service to?
But like many seemingly good ideas, this one works less well in practice than it sounds in theory. One obvious problem that all of us have encountered is source unreliability. While companies may know they are asking real customers for reviews, when users look at ratings of a business on the internet, they generally have no way of knowing which reviews have been written by people who have used the business in question, which ones have been posted by company employees or people who were paid to write something positive, and which ones have been written by a business's competitors (or even the owner's spurned lover). It can be quite difficult to pick out the signal amidst all the noise.
Another problem is that being asked to rate every business you may have used can be a nuisance. Though peevishness is not my style, on one occasion, I got flustered by the flood of requests to rate a company, and I wrote back saying that my experience had been a 5-star one before I started getting multiple emails asking me to rate my experience. I said I'd take 2 stars off for that.
There are also cases in which businesses do not simply ask for a review, they ask for a 5-star review, and pester customers to comply.
What interests me here, however, is a different problem. It has to do with what I am going to suggest is an unfortunate side effect of surveys: excessive scrutiny of things that don't and shouldn't matter. What I have in mind is the following. Responding to a request to fill in a customer satisfaction survey can easily push a person to overanalyze insignificant details.
While it is important to reflect on significant aspects of life and interaction with others, scrutinising things of little consequence can be a waste of resources and worse. One may easily start doubting, second guessing. And to what end? The problem is that when you direct your attention to something, however small, you may start to feel as though the thing matters just because you are focusing on it. None of this is to suggest that seemingly insignificant things may not, upon occasion, betray something deeper. There is such a thing as passive aggression, and passive-aggressive acts, while often insignificant on the surface, can be very hostile. In the usual case, however, this is not how things stand. It's not really hostility you detected in the voice of that agent on the phone but fatigue or the residual signs of a bad morning.
The problem with many customer satisfaction surveys then is that they encourage excessive scrutiny of every aspect of an interaction that wasn't really meaningful but may come to seem meaningful upon very close inspection. If you are going to write a poem, it may be worth paying close attention to every little detail. But if all you are going to do is fill in a survey, the benefits of replaying in slow motion an otherwise perfectly mundane interaction are rather dubious. Indeed, there may be something borderline unethical about looking at every aspect of an exchange with another person under a magnifying glass. It's a bit like examining every pore of the person's face. Could we perhaps put an end to the deluge of so-called customer satisfaction surveys and cut each other some slack? - Psychology Today

ERROR: Macro /ads/dfp-ad-article-new is missing!
MORE FROM Opinion and Editorial
MORE FROM Khaleej Times
CurrentRequestUnmodified: /editorials-columns/driverless-in-dubai-pedal-to-the-metal-of-self-driving-cars- macro_action: article, macro_profile: , macro_adspot:
KT App Download
khaleejtimes app

All new KT app
is available
for download:

khaleejtimes - android khaleejtimes - ios khaleejtimes - HUAWEI AppGallery