Customer/employee surveys are important. I know this, and I try to go along with companies who take the time to survey me as a customer. But they need to do a better job of asking questions that are both within the customer’s ability to answer and that they can do something with.

Take my bank, for instance.  It just had a survey company call to ask about my experience as a business account holder. It was a nice gesture, but frankly, it was a waste of my time and theirs.

The questions mostly began, “On a scale of 1 to 9, do you think…”.  They wanted to know whether I thought the bank cared about me as a customer (not particularly; banks in general seem to nickel and dime customers, and they’re quick to charge interest but slow to pay it). They wondered if I felt appreciated (can’t think of anything the bank has done to show appreciation) or had been made to wait too long (more than once). They wondered if I had a relationship with the person managing my account (there’s a person managing it? really?). And they took at least eight minutes to run through it all.

If you’re going to survey someone, one of the first rules is that you only ask a question when you can or plan to do something with the answers. So is the bank going to change anything if the survey people find that 75 per cent of customers don’t feel appreciated, and 85 per cent don’t think the bank cares about us? Can we look forward to hand-written notes of appreciation or an extra 0.5 per cent interest on our accounts? I doubt it.

By all means, survey your customers. But make sure to ask questions that they can actually answer and that will give you information you can and will act on. And if someone repeatedly says, “I can’t answer that” or “I have no idea,” think about changing the question.