The Curmudgeon and I are considering solar.
As part of the exploration process, I asked an acquaintance what he thought of the company that sent a representative to my house to give an estimate.
“I didn’t like the online reviews I read,” he said, “so I just decided to bag it.” He acknowledged that people are more likely to post negative reviews, but didn’t seem to care. I told him I don’t trust online reviews. People are wielding too much power today under the cover of anonymity.
I understand the importance of customer satisfaction and feedback, but the whole survey/review movement is out of control. A friend was given a survey card after having an MRI at a major hospital. The only thing she was unhappy about was being asked to do the survey.
Here’s an impromptu survey question: how sick and tired are you of being asked your opinion on things that never occurred to you 5 years ago?
Online customer reviews are our barometer for where we eat, what we buy, where we stay and who treats us when we’re sick. The majority of reviews are probably valid, but some are posted at the request of people who want to boost business. I’ve been asked to post reviews, and I’m guilty of it too. I asked some people to write a review for a family property to generate online traffic.
Newspapers, magazines and websites post annual “Best Of” issues, but I often wonder who filled out the surveys. There’s a restaurant in our area that repeatedly wins top prize for best patio dining that baffles me and everyone I know. None of us eats there because it’s overpriced, gives small portions and there’s often a long wait. You think, “Who’s filling out this survey and what else are they wrong about?”
I worked briefly for a website that relies on ads for revenue. During a food tasting for a dinner party, we ate vegan cheese that tasted and looked like white Play Dough. Come to think of it, Play Dough is better. We all agreed it was horrendous, but my boss insisted we needed to say something positive because the cheesemaker was a friend and advertiser.
The request for reviews is everywhere, from the supermarket checkout line to the dealership servicing your car. Can anyone give grocery baggers anything but a glowing review when they’re standing next to you as you fill out the form? Within a half-hour of returning home from the Honda dealership, a customer service representative left a message asking me to call to answer a service survey.
I didn’t call her back because I was satisfied. I’ve called service places when the car broke down on the Bourne Bridge or my front right tire flew off on a country road, but those were exceptions. If I’m happy, you’re probably not going to hear from me.
Though I know people who rely on online customer reviews, I don’t. I’ve read too many critical comments about places or people who didn’t deserve it. Sure, people are entitled to their opinions, but some people are never happy.
It’s hard to imagine someone finding fault with an herb farm, but a woman wrote a scathing review of Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth, CT. The writer was disappointed by the number of lavender plants in bloom, the cost of gift shop items and the size of the farm. After reading this review, I became convinced that people can and will criticize anything.
A writer I know penned her first novel, leaving her open for reviews on Amazon and social media platforms. Though many comments were positive, some were cutting and nasty. What I thought reading them was how brave this writer is to have her book published. It takes enormous courage to put your work up for public review, ridicule and rejection.
My first job out of college was an editorial assistant at a major publishing house in New York City. I was thrilled to land the job, but I was little more than a glorified secretary. After I fetched coffee for my boss, he said, “Here’s a stack of unsolicited manuscripts. Read the first page and if they look interesting, put them in one pile. If they don’t, throw them in the trash.”
I was 21 with no professional editing experience, poring over manuscripts that writers spent months or years working on in hopes of getting published. It seemed unfair that a neophyte was making such an important call. I didn’t know much as a new college graduate, but I knew I wasn’t qualified to decide an author’s fate.
Instead of focusing on reviews and surveys, businesses and professionals should spend resources giving consumers the best service. Remind sales clerks that they’re there to help customers, not to play with the clothes steamer and bemoan how hungry they are. Remind waitresses that they’re there to serve customers, not to share how much they’re sweating because the kitchen is hot. Remind road construction flaggers that they’re there direct traffic, not to scroll through their I-Phone.
If everyone just focused a little more on their jobs and a little less on surveys, we’d probably all be a lot happier.