Emmett Dulaney: Can you fill this out?

Thu, 2012-08-09 11:42 -- univcomm
August 9, 2012

It troubles me when merchants ask that I go online after I get home and complete a survey following every transaction. Part of the trouble I feel is related to there apparently being no end to the number of survey requests that get tossed out like insults at a family reunion. A bigger part of what troubles me, though, is that it is so one-sided: I tell the merchant my opinion of them, but I don’t have the opportunity to learn what they think of me. I can’t help but wonder what the cashier thinks of the transaction which just concluded. Am I, in their mind, the savviest shopper to promenade through the door all day? Or did I come across as self-important and an all-around bit of a jerk? Did they knowingly let me purchase something that is going on sale the very next day or that went out of style when Clinton left office?

To help even the score a bit, I created my own survey (posted at http://customereval.questionpro.com/) and for a one-week time period I passed out business cards asking cashiers to go online and rate our exchange. Using a five-point scale (Highly Satisfied, Satisfied, Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, and Highly Dissatisfied), they were asked to rank the following: Friendliness, Speed of Payment Option, Cleanliness, Wit – or Appropriateness – of Banter, and Overall Satisfaction with Checkout Experience. On a similar scale (Very Likely, Likely, Neither Likely nor Unlikely, Unlikely, Very Unlikely), they were asked to answer the following three questions:

  • How likely would you be to stop this customer from making a purchase they should not (item is out of style, ugly, dangerous, not bought by anyone sane, etc.)?
  • How likely would you be to recommend this customer not make a purchase if you knew the price was changing soon?
  • How likely would you be to want to wait on this customer in the future?

A couple of demographic questions asked gender and age and the aside from that, the only remaining element of the survey was the disclaimer that the only way they could win an iPad would be if they first donated two.

A fear I had was that there would not be a way to know what “normal” is. For example, I could get frustrated if banter averaged Satisfied instead of Highly Satisfied, but maybe in reality that is quite high - everyone else would only average “Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied”. To identify “normal”, I asked 14 MBA students to give out requests to take the survey the same week I did so I could compare their evaluations with mine.

I am sad to report that the results are inconclusive due — in large part — to the very low number of respondents. Asking cashiers to take a survey turned out to be more intimidating than imagined and many of them reported that while they could give survey requests out, they weren’t allowed to take them in. A small number proffered that there was no way they wanted to spend their off hours answering a stranger’s questions about a sock purchase; it was with those that I felt the most in common.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).

Columns from Anderson University’s Falls School of Business are published Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. Tuesday’s columnist is Emmett Dulaney, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.