Everyone wants my opinion. But is anyone listening?

by | 12 Apr 2019

I hadn’t actually ended the call to my insurers when the ‘follow-up’ customer services email dropped into my inbox: ‘How did we do today?’

My call to them was the annual last-minute admission that, no, I hadn’t found a better deal for my car because, yes, I’d again been too busy to look for one. Aware the renewal date was looming, I cleared diary time, got on the phone, got through quickly enough and dealt with the dull but necessary details. Done!

Except now I had a chance to complete the second-dullest task of the week: ‘Answer our short survey to rate our performance!’ Hmmm, let’s see – the monthly payment was convenient, the man I dealt with comprehensible enough … honestly, I hadn’t invested much more in the whole experience. Should he have done it in another accent? His Yorkshire tone seemed fine. Did I really have a view beyond that?

No. No, I didn’t – except that the insurance industry once seemed so suggestive of solidity and confidence. Why were they suddenly coming on so needy? Should I worry?

There’s no escape if you leave the car and grab a cab. The firm I use texts me even as I exit the taxi, seeking my views on the stimulating trip along the A60 to the station. Thanks for asking but, honestly, at 6am I can hardly open my eyes, let alone form a view. In a role reversal, customers are now being rated too. Some taxi firms grade passengers and refuse to pick up people who have been rude in the past.

Of course surveys are all about improving customer service and have their uses. My first action when booking a holiday is to check out online reviews. An annoyed reviewer’s ‘no wifi’ comment is the signal to me that this trip could mean a blissful tech-free breeak.

But too often businesses are still only paying lip service. Last week the waiter at a pizza restaurant asked how my meal was. Now, I don’t like complaining (I am British after all) – but he did ask, so I told him, with details. “Fine, but remember I asked for the dressing on the side rather than all over…” He glazed over, gazing blankly. He was trained to ask the question, sure, but not to deal with off-script answers. He made an apologetic noise. I paid up. Awkward. But he did ask!

Well-known troublemaker Spike Milligan said the trick to getting satisfaction in these matters was going to the top. If your morning milk was delivered less than fresh, don’t tell the milkman, tell the chairman of the dairy – or better yet, the Prime Minister. I’ve considered that. She has a lot on her plate, of course, and not much of a track record on listening.

But you try and complain about it and …