1. Arts & Entertainment

Press '1' if you're sick of customer satisfaction surveys

[Illustration by Steve Madden | Times]
Published Sep. 4, 2017

They're everywhere you look now, the ubiquitous customer feedback survey.

You get a haircut and Number 9 Salon emails to ask if it's working. Call Frontier to complain and a voice begs you to take a survey about your interaction. An oil change at the Nissan dealership prompts a plea for a review.

If it seems like you're inundated by surveys lately, it's because you are. Businesses of all kinds want your immediate feedback on how they're doing.

Thank you for continuing to read the Tampa Bay Times. Please stick around for a short survey at the end of this story.

Southwest Airlines values your opinion. Amazon wants to know how many stars you'd give the luggage. Publix has selected you to answer a few questions.

The pitch is even infringing on our beloved pastime.

"GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK," says the email from the Tampa Bay Rays. "Did you enjoy your time at the game? Is there anything you'd like to tell us about your game-day experience at Tropicana Field?"

Of course, they've long wanted to know. And we've seen customer comment forms and pen-and-paper surveys for decades on restaurant tabletops and hotel night stands.

But this feels different.

Suspecting there was something afoot, we, um, surveyed two men who spend a lot of time thinking about surveys.

Turns out there are a few forces at work that have given rise to business' seemingly sudden school-boy curiosity about how much you like them.

First, there's been a transition in marketing from the one-off transaction to a more long-term relationship, said Richard Lutz, chairman of the marketing department at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business.

The business doesn't want your money just once. It wants your money for the rest of your life.

In fact, businesses assign you a CLT – a Customer Lifetime Value. But seeing that pay off means getting you back in the door. And that means building and maintaining a relationship.

"The whole underlying philosophy is, 'We want a customer for life,' " Lutz said. "And if we're doing a good job of managing our relationship with customers, we need to know how they feel."

That's where the second factor comes in: technology.

The credit card you use at the coffee shop might betray your email, giving the shop a way to reach you directly, automatically, and to personalize it by using your first name. And your phone is in your pocket, so you see the email before you even taste your coffee.

And if you can answer a few quick questions immediately, while the interaction is fresh in mind, the company is getting "the latest up-to-date feedback, perceptions and opinions from customers," said Moez Limayem, dean of the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida.

That's valuable.

"If you leverage on that data, and apply analytics, you can convert it to insights to help your company," he said.

Throw in intense competition in a globalizing market, empowered customers (who, by the way, self publish on social media, swaying friends' opinions), and surveys seem natural.

And, said Lutz, there has been research that shows that "a customer will be positive about a company if the company simply says, 'Hey, how are we doing?' "

So just asking the question — even seeming interested in performance — can make a customer feel positive.

Said Limayem: "The message you're sending with these surveys is that you really do care about your customers, and that's really important."

But there are downsides.

Pretending to care and not acting to fix faulty business practices can rub customers wrong.

And immediate surveys tend to draw responses from the extremes — happy or disgruntled customers — not from the vast swath of ambivalent folks in the middle.

They also reflect the experiences of those demographics who actually have time to respond to surveys.

"People are time stressed and generally not interested in spending their time doing something they're not interested in," said Lutz. "I think, in general, people are put off by requests for their time."

And that's basically what made us ask.

"I've been to some places where they keep calling you and calling you until you take the survey," said Limayen. "They can be harmful if they're overdone."

So what's the end game? Will there come a day when we all walk through life, phones in hand, rating every interaction?

"At some point it reaches a saturation point," said Lutz. "As a customer, you'll be spending all your time rating every single thing.

"And that," he said, "is not really living life."

What did you think of this article?

1. A work of genius.

2. Only read the headline.

3. Slow news day!

4. I'm canceling my subscription.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at or (727) 893-8650. Follow @gangrey.


  1. Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from HBO blockbuster "Game of Thrones." AP
    The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience and the Who come to town, plus a ‘Greatest Showman’ sing-along at Tampa Theatre.
  2. In this Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 photo, Esme Goldman, 13, streams an episode of the '90s sitcom "Friends" via Netflix in her bedroom at her home, in Pasadena, Calif. “Friends” marks its 25th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 22 and the quintessential 1990s sitcom has attracted a new slew of viewers who are barely half that age. Tween and teen girls in particular have embraced the show with huge enthusiasm, taking a show that belonged to Generation X and making it their own.  (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    “It is old but you can’t tell that much when you’re watching,” said 15-year-old Sammy Joyce.
  3. "House Hunters," shot at a home in the Bayshore Beautiful area.  (Times | 2007) Tampa Tribune
    Whang, 57, was also a comedian and actress.
  4. On Saturday, Disturbed will perform at Amalie Arena in Tampa. TRAVIS SHINN  |  Warner Records
    The Bucs Beach Bash goes down in St. Pete Beach, Disturbed plays Amalie Arena and the Dance Hall Festival continues at the Studio@620.
  5. Visitor Sara Crigger of Nashville views the Dali masterwork painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" (1969-1970) this month with the aid of the Dali app on her smartphone. "Using this is like holding an art history class in your hand," Crigger said. The "Visual Magic: Masterworks in Augmented Reality" exhibit runs through Nov. 3 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    With augmented reality, 19th century prints, bronzes and food photography, a well-rounded experience awaits.
  6. Salman Rushdie is the author of "Quichotte." Rachel Eliza Griffiths
    The acclaimed author will talk about the book at Tampa Theatre on Sept. 25. | Review
  7. Aaron Shulman is the author of "The Age of Disenchantments." Ecco Books
    The author is reading ‘City of Quartz,’ a history of Los Angeles.
  8. A man takes a picture of a sign at the Little A'Le'Inn during an event inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Rachel, Nev. Hundreds have arrived in the desert after a Facebook post inviting people to "see them aliens" got widespread attention and gave rise to festivals this week. JOHN LOCHER  |  AP
    The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
  9. A scene from a balcony cabin on a 2017 Alaskan cruise. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it for the rest of your life.
  10. Evander Preston inside his gallery Evander Preston Contemporary Jewelry Design in Pass-a-Grille. The portrait of Preston (left, top) was done by Adam Turkel. The carved wooden sculpture of a white dinner jacket to Preston's right was done by Tampa artist Fraser Smith. Preston died on Sept. 14. Times (2007)
    His gallery and his eccentric presence have been a constant in the St. Pete Beach area for decades.