When questionnaires become a schlep
Many and great are the pluses of living in our time.
Take the mind-blowing miracle that for most of my life was unimaginable and is now mother’s milk to ever-growing millions – walking Earth with all its knowledge in one pocket and all its literature in another.
Take the deeper truth that (despite horrible jagged exceptions) a constantly higher proportion of the planet lives in respect and acceptance from and for other people. Take transport, entertainment, medicine, communications. Take access. Damn, we’re privileged! But things are sent to try us. I think I see an upcoming major public enemy: response questionnaires.
This week I had four – Netcare, Telkom and two Ubers.
Part of Uber’s beauty is no tipping – no agonising over how much is due, no wallet-scouring, money-handling, oopssorry-haven’t-got-change.
But you must rate your driver, knowing that less than a five is a stab in the heart. He was okay, and pleasant, so you overlook things.
While Mandla didn’t break the speedlimit, it was against his religion to ever go below it, traffic and bends regardless. John, conversely, thought he was in a funeral procession.
You enter 5, feeling uncomfortably over-charitable. Uber instantly supplies several complimentary epithets that you “might want” to give the driver. No, Uber, too much. Please go away. Next is Netcare’s questionnaire, saying it’ll take less than five minutes. Who can begrudge five minutes? It opens optimistically upon two simple questions. Work of a moment.
But then Next Page is called for, and another Next Page and another. By around Page 5 or 6 that go-away feeling is strongly in mind.
As is “what?” Example: Netcare wants to know how frequently its staff administered medicines excellently. Did they do that Never, Sometimes, Usually, or Always? If one medicine was administered, all answers feel stupid. If no medicine was administered, all answers are absurd.
To avoid absurdity you give no answer. Your screen shouts at you in red letters and prohibits you from moving on.
Then to Telkom, who speak to us by SMS.
To some of us, SMS is for friends and family – “I’m waiting at the mall”, “Don’t forget the onions”.
We don’t really want the plumber’s advertisement vibrating in our pocket. Nor do we want Telkom’s questionnaire. Though we admit, to be fair, that there’s an upside. SMS gives us control of our reply, and gives us a copy of our reply. The websites mainly give us boxes to tick, and they eat what we’ve said – banishing it from us when we press Submit.
Telkom has fixed my wi-fi, and want to know how well they did it. On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely am I to recommend them to friends or family. (Hmm, the very people whose channel they’re gatecrashing.)
Strictly, this is also unanswerable. It’s their wi-fi that they fixed, I can’t tell Aunty Elsie to call Vodacom. But the spirit of the question is legit: Did their people get things right?
The answer has a thousand parts. The original detective, Sipho, scored 100% on all fronts. The long subsequent router configuring in their shop – something called my TIN number, yes, with a T, had evidently caught a freak disease – was a kaleidoscope of experiences ranging from the extremely impressive to the distinctly off-putting. How do you compress that into one numeral?
I battle with that, assessing and recalculating. Finally, I make it 8.
Telkom texts a quick riposte: “What is your main reason for your rating of 8?”
Ag man, no man, Telkom man. The job was okay. The cross-examination brings us right back to that go-away feeling.