The Old Coot offers his opinion

It’s a hailstorm out there! Of surveys. Everybody wants you to fill out a questionnaire. Buy a donut – get a survey request. Go to the doctor – get a survey request. The only one I take is the Dunkin Donut survey, when they give you a free donut. You go on line and answer a bunch of questions. Even if you lie, you get a donut. Sometimes I’m a 26-year-old female, have an income less than $20,000; my race is “other”. Other times, I’m 80 years old, my income is off the chart, and I’m male and claim I stop in at a Dunkin Donut outlet twice a day. 

Most businesses and many organizations have the survey bug. Often, it’s a marketing consulting firm that tabulates the results. They draw up a bunch of graphs, put the results together in a glossy report and conduct a power point presentation for upper management. But, it’s like going to the doctor and having your pulse taken on your kneecap. Useless (for the most part)! Just ask that 26-year-old female going around every day munching on a free donut. 

It doesn’t matter. The results LOOK scientific. The report is loaded with impressive statistical terms: mean, median, average, trending, etc. The process is a report card. And, like the ones I hated to bring home from school, the results are never good enough. Not for executive management anyhow. But, for me, it’s an indictment of the management, not the employees. They have no idea what it’s like to be a customer of their organization.   

Yet, the solution is simple – The people running the show need to be a customer. If the CEO of American Airlines, Douglas Parker, traveled (incognito) on one of his planes, sat in coach, scrunched his knees into the seat in front of him, got yelled at for having his seat in the recline position just before takeoff, even though it only inclines one inch, and had to jump into the narrow aisle designed for people 5 feet tall and under 100 pounds to shake out a leg cramp, then maybe, just maybe, he’d run the airline to please the customers, not the bean counters. (Can you tell I’ve recently flown on American Airlines?)  

If John Standley, the CEO of Rite Aid, tried to figure out how to get someone to cash him out at a row of empty checkout stations, the CEO of McDonalds, Stephen Esterbrook, witnessed a group of seniors trying to order their meal at the new kiosks, the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, waited in line to buy a stamp and had to endure the sales pitch from the clerk that her executive staff mandate be asked, they’d never need to bother customers and waste money on surveys. They’d know firsthand, the answer to the question, “How’re we doing?” They’d know and we’d all be better off. 

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