Ottawa Citizen

The survey says ...

Retailers rely on online questionna­ires to improve service, win over valued customers — but where’s my prize?


The February Blahs haven’t hit me yet, but I’ve come down with something worse — a bad case of customer survey fatigue.

No matter where I shop lately, I leave the store with a sales receipt as long as my arm, and a plea from the cashier to complete the store’s online survey. Stores are behaving like an insecure friend who always craves attention: “Talk to me, Valued Customer, tell me how I can make you like me more?”

Most stores offer prizes as an inducement to complete the survey, which they swear will take “about five minutes” but always takes at least twice as long.

I was living a full life without ever having done a single customer survey. But in a weak moment the other day, I filled out three in a row.

Having answered dozens of questions — some of them nosy — I’ve concluded that the stores are up to something. Whenever retailers talk about improving service, it means us poor saps will soon be pumping gas, scanning groceries at the “self-checkout” or printing off boarding passes — jobs the companies used to do themselves. It’s genius, really, the way they have convinced us that it’s for our convenienc­e and profit, not theirs.

The Home Depot survey began by asking if I was employed as a contractor or home builder. That’s a terrible way to start a relationsh­ip with me. I’m a guy who thinks DIY means Don’t Involve Yourself.

The store also wanted me to rate, on a satisfacti­on/dissatisfa­ction scale, how much “fun” — and fun was the actual word they used — I had shopping there.

The sales slip shows I’d bought a wallpaper smoother that day. That was not an impulse buy that left me giddy with joy. The smoother flattens wrinkles and sets seams, and is supposed to make the job “easy, fast, and trouble free” — results that never occur in a wallpaper project.

We — my wife and I, her lowly helper — were papering a kitchen wall that includes a bay window, meaning many fiddly cuts and complicati­ons. This was not in any way “fun,” however broad Home Depot’s definition might be. The leading causes of divorce are doomed attempts to wallpaper any room on a Saturday, and failure to agree on the best way to load the dishwasher. You’d think Home Depot would know that.

The Loblaws survey asked how likely I’d be to give a thumbs up if “a friend or relative” asked me to recommend this particular store.

Not very, I replied. I know what my friends or siblings would say if I started babbling about what swell times they could have by shopping at my favourite grocery store: “That’s great, bro, just keep taking the pills, OK?”

When Loblaws asked me about the level of customer satisfacti­on I reached on my visit, I gave them a six out of 10 score, pretty average. I told them why. “Because I had to walk half a mile to the back of the store to get to the eggs, milk, and cream that I came to buy.” And I meant it to sting.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a fab time at a grocery store. Jason Spezza once bounced a friendly grapefruit off my adult niece’s back in the produce section, which delighted her. Spez had mistakenly thought she was a Sens teammate’s sister.

I don’t think that happens often. There can’t be that many fruit-pelting hockey players in town.

In its “customer care” survey, Shoppers Drug Mart asked me to rate the store’s “checkout process.” Here’s how that process unfolded for me. I picked up a newspaper and a magazine, lined up, and paid for the items. There was only one customer ahead of me. The cashier asked if I had a loyalty card. I said no. He said, “Have a good one.” I said, “You, too.” I left.

As a commercial transactio­n, this was as good as it gets for me. Way to go, Shoppers! Any chance you could stop pestering a Valued Customer now?

I don’t kid myself. I know customer surveys are here to stay. Naturally, I blame young people for this. They don’t mind doing online surveys because they love social media.

And the entire appeal of social media is giving your opinion, asked or not.

Besides, I’m wondering just how “valued” I am anyway — I still haven’t won a prize.

 ??  BEBETO MATTHEWS /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Too many stores these days are behaving like an insecure friend who craves attention by bombarding shoppers with endless questions in consumer surveys, says Bruce Ward.
 BEBETO MATTHEWS /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Too many stores these days are behaving like an insecure friend who craves attention by bombarding shoppers with endless questions in consumer surveys, says Bruce Ward.
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