Businesses intensify efforts to get consumer feedback

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NEW YORK — With e-mailed appeals for comments on commonplace transactions and customer-service calls that beget requests to take a survey, consumers are being pinged for opinions at a rate that has gotten some publicly grousing about a surfeit of surveys.

While market-research polls have been conducted for decades, customer-satisfaction surveys have proliferated in recent years because of technology, a growing emphasis on getting data to shape decisions and measure results, and a drive to hold onto customers in a difficult economy, experts say.

There’s no scientific mea­sure of the number of customer-feedback requests, but questionnaires have percolated into such professional settings as law firms and doctor’s offices and become de rigeur for even everyday purchases.

“I can’t remember the last time I bought a fast-food hamburger or a sandwich without seeing a request for a survey on the receipt,” said Valerie Salven, 57, a semi-retired lawyer in Lexington, Ky. “I don’t always have that much to say about a purchase.”

Julie Pfeffer has sworn off phone surveys and most online ones. She finds most so vague that it’s “impossible to see how they could ever be of any use,” and she questions whether companies are even listening. Pfeffer, 44, who works in money management and lives in Hockessin, Del., recalls trying vainly to provide specific comments to a car-rental company survey-taker who wouldn’t veer from a “totally satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not satisfied”-style script.

Brian Warner doesn’t mind being asked for input on such a big-ticket item as a car or a cruise. But “my goodness, after an oil change?” the retired high school principal said with a chuckle.

Moreover, he’s unsettled by the plaintive tone of some pleas for feedback.

“It gives me the picture of some poor manager who’s going to be taken out and flogged” if the response isn’t ebullient, said Warner, 66, of Blaine, Wash.

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