Photo by lamont_cranston from Flickr.com with Creative Commons license
Is it possible for customer service call centers to manipulate the results of their after call surveys?
I recently contacted my Internet service provider about changes on my bill. One year ago, I signed up with an amazing promotional offer, which is typical. After 6 months my rate went up to 39.99, which I expected was going to happen. So, I didn’t think anything of it when I never received any notification from the company that my rate was changing. Now, six months later, my rate went up again, this time by 9 dollars. I never received any notification of the change (and, later, customer service never accounted for the lack of communication). This time, I was very bothered by it. After processing my frustration and deciphering my recent billing statements, I called customer service.
While waiting on hold, that beautifully unidentifiable, yet totally ubiquitous artificial voice came on to ask if I would like to participate in a survey. The company would call me back within a half hour to complete a short questionaire. A half hour seemed like an unusual amount of wait time, but I accepted. I almost always do. I think it is important to provide feedback to companies, especially when you are a paying customer. There is also an irrational part of me that believes they give priority to the survey takers. Volunteer and be bumped to the front of the line!
“Hello?!” Oh, no, that was just the computer voice thanking me for my patience and reminding me that my call is important to her.
Thinking back to my past experiences of volunteering for a survey, I have always received that call. But, all of those experiences had been positive. Did I get those calls because they knew I would be leaving some glowing feedback?
Eventually, I got through to a chipper representative. After a less than satisfying conversation, I awaited my survey call. It never came. I understand that the following statement might sound like a conspiracy theory, but I wondered if there was a way for them to screen the calls and send more surveys to satisfied customers than dissatisfied ones. I know the technology exists: “your call may be monitored for quality assurance purchases.” Assuring quality for who? In what way? If this were happening, they would not steer all survey calls; that would be too obvious. Plus, according to fascinating research by Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational), when given incentive, a large percentage of people do cheat, but only a little.
What would be the motivation for making the surveys look better than they really were?
Large corporations have local cells around the country, and the world. These satellite sales and service centers are accountable to their central offices. Would it be in their interest to shape the survey results? Like a sales office, would better numbers bring bonuses and other rewards? Would hiding negative customer experiences prevent punishment? If given the opportunity, and under some sort of pressure, I think that some service centers would engage in this type of practice. I know there are much more rational, less cynical explanations for my missed survey call, but I still cannot shake the feeling that I was somehow cheated.
I wonder if anyone else has had similar thoughts or experiences. Do you know of any documented instances to back up this theory?