by Christoph Sisson on January 20, 2014

Stop Coaching Positive Survey Responses

I have a new pet peeve. Several times in the past year I’ve been encouraged to give high or perfect scores on a survey I’m about to receive.

It started with restaurant servers handing me the receipt, pointing to the link for their online survey, and saying something along the lines of, “If you liked my service today, please give me a perfect rating on this survey.” Soon after, representatives from both my cable company and my cell phone company began the practice of ending every interaction with a plea to rate their service a 9 or 10, even when they couldn’t resolve my issue or weren’t particularly helpful.


Do you understand that you’re implying you don’t want my feedback unless it’s positive? And, what real value is there in that?

Even the most recent wrinkle I experienced in this trend irritated me when the sales representative at a car dealer said, “Please give me all 10’s on the survey you’ll receive soon. If there are any items that you don’t think I earned a 10 for, just mark it a 10 and tell me what I need to do to make your experience perfect.”

Now, this sales representative actually would have gotten 10’s from me anyway because of the great experience I had. And, I have to admit that I thought this new twist on begging for perfect scores was innovative.

However, coaching me to provide perfect scores is a surefire way to leave a bad taste in my mouth and negatively influence my overall experience satisfaction.

If you’re a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” movies, you may remember when Gollum exclaimed, “You ruins it!” as Sam started cooking the rabbits that had just been caught. Similarly, I think companies are ruining their opportunity for valuable customer feedback when they attempt to cook the results by encouraging perfect scores.

(As a side note, I’ve been impatiently waiting for an opportunity to reference that line from “The Lord of the Rings” movie. It’s one of my favorites, and is followed almost immediately by Sam’s soliloquy about potatoes – another of my favorites. But, I digress.)

My point here is that, if anything, you should be encouraging CANDID feedback from your customers. That’s how you can gain insight into your customers’ experience that is of real value to your organization.

And, as I mentioned in my Best Practices for Tracking Customer Satisfaction post, you should ask an open-ended question for each of your major ratings questions. Using open-ended questions to ask customers WHY they selected a particular score can provide you with deeper insight into the specific dynamics driving high and low scores, and will help you prioritize customer experience improvement efforts.

So, stop coaching positive survey responses. Instead, encourage candid responses.
When you do, you’ll gain insights of actual value while demonstrating that you respect your customers’ opinions at the same time.

That’s a true win-win..

Topics: Blog Business Strategy
Christoph Sisson

Christoph Sisson

Christoph is a marketing and customer-experience practitioner who is committed to understanding customer needs and business objectives. As marketing manager for Walsworth, Christoph enjoys informing customers about solutions that can improve their success.

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