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I am probably going to upset some communications majors out there with this, BUT – STOP already with the surveys. Back in the olden days when all the computers were mainframes and kept in climate controlled “dinosaur pens,” the first rule of interpreting data was…….GIGO. It’s an expression probably not quoted much these days but still highly relevant. The acronym, for those born after “Top Gun,” stands for garbage in, garbage out. So, if you are a CEO or a manager relying on data from customer surveys to benchmark your group’s or company’s progress, trust me, you are kidding yourself. First off, your data is skewed. How many times do you bring your car in for service and hear from the service writer when they are done: we need to get all 5’s on the survey you receive or we FLUNK! You are already rigging the data, but to what purpose? If all you are looking for is validation that everything is hunky dory in your business operation, you can stop reading here.

If you are a nice guy and like your dealership’s service department, you are apt to give them 5’s when, in fact, some of those areas were 4’s and one of them might have even been a 3, or just okay. As consumers, we are bombarded with surveys, constantly and incessantly begged by those being rated to give them high grades. Many people on the receiving end view surveys with the same vitriol that we usually associate with spam. The survey ship has sailed; let’s put it to rest. Here’s another problem with the data you get: you are NEVER going to hear from your really angry or highly upset customers. Those people will not waste another second on you and will just take their business elsewhere without as much as a peep.

I recently spent five days in a hospital that proved themselves to be so inept that if I am ever gut shot, I will drive 20 miles past it to the next hospital. Just a terrible all-around experience. Did I complain? NO, I will just never come back. Sure enough, two weeks after returning home I got a “Hope you are Feeling Better” card signed by three people at the hospital who, coincidentally, I never met during my stay, reminding me to give them high marks when I get my survey. Really???

So you don’t think this is a rant about a bad hospital stay, let’s review the facts on surveys: they are intrusive, overused, and are considered by many to be nothing more than spam. The data you get from them is highly skewed, albeit in your favor, and if you believe it you are kidding yourself. (The rule of GIGO.) You are never going to hear from your disappointed or upset customers because they have already gone somewhere else. Where’s the value in this process?

If surveys are your tool of choice to take your customer’s temperature or rate your employee’s performance, it is time to rethink the rapidly diminishing value of the survey. The smart leaders out there have probably already figured this out and moved on. Hopefully you are one of them.