I’m over at Eli Rose today with a lesson from the post office. Are you telling your customers to go away?
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media thinking that we should all treat our customers more like sharks. Come on over and find out why!
Well, it took almost five weeks, but we finally have our air conditioning back.
Anyone who visited our house over the past month witnessed the signature behaviors that come with losing your A/C… no more leisurely entrances and exits, or keeping lights on when you leave the room, or cooking with the oven, or inviting any sunlight whatsoever into the home. Thanks to some large shade trees (which we’ll curse when an ice storm or tornado sends one crashing down on us), an unseasonably cool Memphis summer, and some ingenuity on our part, we managed to keep our main living area, well, livable. We prided ourselves on the makeshift cardboard-box-and-desk-fan “air highways” we built to route a cool trickle of air from an underpowered and overworked upstairs unit down into the living room, where we further coaxed it down the hallway leading to all of our bedrooms.
Those days are behind us now. In fact, I’m writing this after a fine meal that cooked at 350 degrees for almost an hour, and I won’t even yell “IN OR OUT?” at the cat when he starts meowing at the door shortly. We’re some cool cucumbers.
And it’s all thanks to Scary Bob.
Of course, Scary Bob isn’t his real name. I wouldn’t use his real name. I’m too scared he might find out.
Scary Bob was the man who first set foot in our home two short days after we made a service call to our home warranty company. He immediately became Scary Bob in my mind. Maybe it was the firm handshake that subtly communicated trachea-crushing power, or the eyes that looked through me as though already distracted by the issue of how to dispose of my body, or the gravelly voice that would be perfect for describing to his eventual cellmate how I met my demise, or the twitchiness that made me want to move v-e-r-y slowly in his presence. Anyway, it was a weird vibe.
Scary Bob came in, listened to our problem, warned me that I used an incorrect word when describing the problem, and informed me that I was lucky that he was there because a less intelligent service tech would have misinterpreted my explanation and drawn the wrong conclusion about the problem. He also congratulated us on our luck, since he was a service manager rather than a regular service guy and we would have a much better experience as a result. Finally, he assured us that we weren’t going to receive inferior service just because we had a home warranty, and that he treats all of his customers equally.
That last part was reassuring, because I hadn’t heard of any killing sprees involving air conditioning techs in the Memphis area, so logic dictated that he let his previous customers live and would afford us the same luxury.
So Scary Bob went upstairs, and we heard a cacophony of grunting and various metal-on-metal sounds. Then, after a moment of silence, we turned to find Scary Bob behind us holding about 70 pounds of assorted parts. He described the various components of the system that had failed us, listed the advantages of that system over its (presumably more reliable) alternatives, and provided a fairly in-depth overview of how the system functioned. I actually learned quite a bit. I paid close attention in case there was a test; I didn’t want to disappoint Scary Bob.
Scary Bob told us he was taking all of the components with him and that we’d hear from them soon to schedule installation of the new parts. Not wanting to argue, we agreed, paid the bill, and walked him out. As we watched him drive off, my wife turned to me and said, “I’m glad you were here for this. If it had just been me, I would have been terrified!”
I assured her the feeling was mutual.
Days turned into weeks, with one scheduling snafu after another, until finally all the pieces had arrived. On the appointed day, Scary Bob turned up, assembled the unit in our driveway, lugged it upstairs, and put it together in about ten minutes. He may be scary, but he’s good. Then he came downstairs and announced that he had some “money saving tips for you that will help save you some money.” He noted that “old people who don’t have nothing” will leave a pot of water out in the winter to add humidity to the air in their home, and recommended that we adopt this approach during the winter and leave a pot of water boiling on the stove at all times until moisture collects on the windows. He then suggested that we leave our fan running constantly in the winter, but not the summer. We nodded enthusiastically as he rattled off other ideas.
Finally, as he was preparing to leave, he gave us one final tip. “If you need service again, remember, you can call your warranty company and ask for our company, then call us and ask for me personally. Don’t ask for anyone else, ask for me. You don’t want any weirdos coming into your home.”
With that, he abruptly turned and left. Gone from our home but not our memories, Scary Bob is now – at least for me – the face of both our home warranty provider and the home services company he works for. And it’s quite a face.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had an … interesting … experience with my home warranty company. The last one involved flames shooting from an electrical outlet. Both of these dealings have been stark reminders that we all need to be conscious of our brand ambassadors and the impressions they leave.
Because there’s not enough marketing dollars in the world to make me forget about Scary Bob.
It’s a difficult time around the Logue household. Our son has come down with a massive case of the whys.
Why can’t we go to the playground? Because it’s too late.
Why is it too late? Because we have to go to bed soon.
Why do we have to go to bed soon? Because tomorrow is a school day.
Why is tomorrow a school day? Because today is Thursday and tomorrow is Friday.
Why is today Thursday? Because yesterday was Wednesday.
You get the picture. He’ll keep going until we put a stop to it.
Recently, during one such interrogation, it occurred to me: this is why people hate researchers.
Of course, our son gets a lot more patience and responsiveness from us than the typical interviewer enjoys. Or said another way, he gets more leeway to abuse his respondents.
Because really, that’s what it is: abuse. And being on the receiving end of it – not just from my son – is a helpful reminder of what we sometimes put respondents through.
- One of my alma maters sent out a survey a few months ago, and the invitation assured me that the “brief survey” would only take around 15 minutes to complete.
- I opened an alarmingly thick envelope last month that contained a survey for car owners. It was 9 pages long, using 10-point font and leaving no white space on the page. I’m guessing it would take an hour to complete for anyone with the patience to answer the ridiculous questions inside.
- Several times I’ve started taking travel surveys, only to give up when I’m asked to recall the number of business and leisure stays at each of two dozen hotel brands over the past year, or how my overall travel spend is distributed across airlines, etc., etc.
Fortunately, there’s less of this now than there used to be. That’s mainly because fewer people are willing to put up with these kinds of interrogations, and the ones that will participate are less and less representative of the population as a whole (removing the incentive to interview them).
So is there ever a time when it’s okay to put a respondent through the wringer? Actually, there are a couple:
- When someone is being adequately compensated for his or her time. I remember 15 years ago, when I was relatively new in the field, we did a mail survey and included a dollar with every outbound survey. The idea was to build goodwill and hope enough people felt obligated to respond. In one of the returned envelopes, instead of a completed survey, we found the dollar bill and a note that read: “my opinions are worth more than this.” Fifteen years ago that was an outlandish statement… now it’s not. Real opinions cost real money.
- When the respondent has a vested interest in the success of the project. We recently conducted an internal culture survey for a professional services firm with around 100 employees across four offices. It was a grueling online survey, 30-45 minutes, and required a lot of thought to fill out accurately. We ended up getting 100% participation – every last employee! Of course, the client did a good job pushing the survey internally, but the level and quality of feedback we received went beyond basic participation. It showed us that the employees really wanted this process to succeed (quite a statement on their corporate culture). They were happy to have a voice and an outlet to share their thoughts and suggestions, and several even wrote in comments thanking their employer for conducting the survey. In cases like this, when respondents can see how the survey makes their lives better, they’ll give you more time, more consideration, more leeway.
But if you’re not facing one of those two situations, you’re on the losing end of a long struggle, one in which the balance of power has already shifted to the respondent.
As an industry, we generally realize this. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be investing so much brainpower in improving the survey-taking experience with more interactivity, gaming, feedback, and other features. Some of it is hokey, some of it seems questionable from a data integrity perspective, but overall we seem to be headed in the right direction. And that’s good to see.
In the meantime, I extend this invitation to the authors of those long, convoluted surveys, and to anyone else who needs to be reminded why it’s so important to stop abusing respondents:
Come on over. My son has some questions he’d like to ask you.
What’s worse than being kept on hold with a complaint? The messages you have to hear while you’re on hold. I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today explaining why you need to avoid tone deafness.
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today thinking about the difference between improving customer satisfaction and improving customer satisfaction scores. Oh, and plastic surgery on your hands. That too.
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today with a guest post on macaroni and cheese, stabbings, and customer relationships. C’mon by!
If buying a home is the American Dream, then selling one is the American Nightmare. I’m at Eli Rose Social Media today with a painful lesson on the difference between fixing a weakness and creating a strength. Come on over!
It was 9pm. I was downstairs reading, the wife was out of town, the kids were in bed, the pets were curled up in their usual spots. Nice and quiet. At least until I heard the water running.
At first I figured my son (3 and developing his potty independence) had just gone down the hall to use the bathroom and was washing his hands. But I waited, and waited, and waited, and the water didn’t shut off. Up the stairs I went.
When I got to the bathroom, my son was indeed at the sink. But he wasn’t washing his hands. Instead, he was trying to push a huge glob of lotion down the drain. There was more lotion on the faucet handles, and more on his arms, and more on the doorknob. Cringing, I went to his room, where I found the rest of the lotion…
…on his toys.
…on his books.
…on his clothes.
…on his asthma inhaler.
…on his alarm clock.
…on the walls.
You know the saying about no such thing as a dumb question? Well, that’s not exactly true. “WHY DID YOU PUT LOTION ON EVERYTHING?!?!?!” is actually a pretty dumb question, although a well-intended one. The only answer I got, delivered with wide-eyed solemnity and a slow shake of the head: “I don’t know.”
Figuring it didn’t make sense to belabor the point, I did a quick wipedown and sent him to his well-moisturized bed. Back downstairs, I was equal parts seething and intrigued. I knew I had a messy cleanup ahead of me the next day, but I also had a mission: to find out what on earth had possessed that kid to lotion up everything in his room.
I’m always up for a good research challenge. The next morning, over breakfast, I opted for a more subtle approach.
Me: So what did you do last night?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: Did you read?
Me: Did you play?
Me: What did you play?
Him: I was a fireman!
Me: What did you do when you were a fireman?
Him: I locked a naughty monkey in a cage. He fooled the fire department! (Curious George reference — made sense since we had read that book before bedtime.)
Me: So what else do firemen do?
Him: They put out fires.
Me: Did you put out a fire?
Him: Yes. I had a fire in my room!
Me: Really? Was it a big fire?
Him: Yeah. It was everywhere.
Me: Was it scary?
Me: So what did you do?
Him: I had to put it out.
Me: Did you spray it with water?
Me: Did you spray it with something else?
Me: Did you spray it with … cheerios?
Me: Did you spray it with lotion?
Me: Did it work? Did you put the fire out?
Him: Yes, and then I was safe.
So there you have it. Mystery solved, fire extinguished, household saved. And while we’re at it, a good reminder that there’s usually more to someone’s behavior than meets the eye… and that holds for grownups too.
(photo credit 123rf.com)
I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media this morning thinking that maybe Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries is smarter than he seems. Detestable, maybe, but still smart. Come find out why!