Feeding back

I ate at a restaurant tonight and something wasn’t great.  Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.  So I was thinking about what I wanted to express to this restaurant and it was pretty long-winded (oh, you’re kidding).  It was about how I’d eaten there many times and my prior experiences were this and this experience was that, and so on.
As luck would have it, I looked down at the table and there was a customer survey card.  A modern one, to do online when you’re back at home.  This got me thinking about the whole concept of surveys.  I have a bit of experience with surveys since I wrote a survey engine for a client.  Of course, he provided the business logic and I turned it into code, but I learned a lot of things about surveying.
One thing about surveying that I didn’t really think about until now is:  A survey tells the surveyor what they want to know, not what the customer wants to tell them.  It’s obvious when you say it like that, isn’t it?  The surveyor writes the questions and provides stock answers.  It all seems a bit biased.  Where’s the emotion?  Where do I get to tell you my history with your company?  Oh yeah, there’s a "Enter any additional comments below" field.  That’s like: "We got what we wanted out of you.  Go ahead and say your piece here.  Huh?  Yeah, we’re listening, keep going."
Ugh.  I would love to see a whole new survey format.  The crazy psychologist in me says there has to be a more intuitive way of arriving at an answer.  Maybe something like building powerful statements that express your emotions, Like:
____ went to your ____ business and ____ your _____.
Personally, I _____ whenever I ____ your product, but everyone else _____.
First off, stop thinking like that.  Grow up.  (Yeah, I did it, too.)  Each of these blanks would be drop down lists of common and uncommon words or word phrases.  With enough template statements, the surveyee could pick as many as they wanted to express how they felt.  If they want to say the same thing over and over using different statements and words, that should tell you something.  Let the surveyee format the text of the selected words.  Big, bold, curvy, red, italic, tiny, underlined.  They all say something important; it’s expressive.
That’s just an idea, and my point is that having a canned survey with a set number of predefined questions and answers is too sterile for the MySpace generation.  These people are all about expression.


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