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Customer satisfaction surveys? I’d give them nought out of 10

Plus: Let's have a Protest Weekend so everyone can get it over and done with

When I took the car in for servicing recently, the receptionist gave me the name and card of my link person for the day.

Not the actual mechanic, you understand, but a go-between who would pass on any concerns and call me when the car was ready. The receptionist was keen that I hang around to meet her, or at least talk to her on the phone. But as her line was engaged, I was allowed just to fill in the form and leave.

When I returned to collect the car, I was ushered to the waiting area and, in the fullness of time, my go-between called my name, shook my hand and accompanied me to the car. She was very concerned that I was happy with everything – by which she clearly meant not the state of the car (which I hadn’t yet driven, post-service), but with her own part in my day. As I settled behind the wheel, she again probed my contentment level. She said I would probably receive a call asking about my “experience” and possibly an emailed survey. I should also know that any mark below a nine (out of 10) was considered inadequate. Aha! 

The next working day, I received a follow-up call, asking about my “experience”, alerting me to the emailed appraisal and advising me, again, that anything below a nine would be considered negative. I recalled then that the adviser, when we first took out the lease, had said something similar. In fact, I think he actually filled in the form for us, checking that it was OK to mark a nine or a 10 for each sub-section.

The point is that it really wasn’t. The whole process had taken an age because of some computer interface problem, but that wasn’t really his fault, so he got his grades – plus, of course, how can you mark someone down in person? At least an emailed form is impersonal – until, that is, someone hints at the appalling insult implied by anything below nine. I just wonder how much use such an appraisal process really is. Does it tell the company anything about the customer’s actual view, or does it rather convey how reluctant your average British customer is to offend?

Disclosure: a couple of years ago, without any pep talk about nines and tens, I had awarded some fours, after being kept waiting and repeatedly passed over as I sat in the coffee area. A month or so later, a series of frantic phone calls made clear that this “anomalous” grade had provoked something akin to a regional-level inquiry as to what could possibly have gone so wrong. So I told them. The way things currently work, no one would ever know. 

All together now, let’s protest!

It was a busy weekend in Westminster, as I’m sure you know. The British National Party, wanting to protest against the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, had been redirected from Woolwich to Whitehall, and the anti-fascists were out in force to meet them – along with phalanxes of police to keep the two ideological armies apart. But they didn’t have the demo-field to themselves. Soon after leaving home to take a voyeuristic sniff of the combative air, I came across three bike-borne badgers looking for their protest – and did my civic duty by pointing them towards St James’s Park.

On my own way to gauge the capital’s temporary badger population, I passed a smaller, but more colourful, anti-austerity demo (“F*ck the troika”) outside the Treasury, and the Sikhs, who have become almost a fixture, waving their placards opposite Downing Street. There were some Ethiopians out, too, but I couldn’t figure out their cause. All of which made me wonder whether we shouldn’t designate one weekend a year an all-purpose protest day. After all, with the exception of the BNP and the anti-fascists, everyone kept themselves cheerfully to themselves.