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Z167729951 As you know, I travel a lot, which means I get to stay in a lot of hotels. (And for those of you long-time readers, I STILL want fitted sheets!)

It seems that nowadays every hotel sends an email requesting I fill out a survey after I've stayed. For that matter, it seems like I get these emails from a lot of different companies after I've done business with them. For example, I recently received such an email from Starwood Hotels. It started like this: 

"Dear Steve Miller,

Congratulations. As a valued member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you have been selected to participate in a brief online survey that will give you the opportunity to win a $100 Gift Card from American Express."

Don't be jealous. Clearly, I'm a lucky guy and congratulations are in order for being selected to take their survey. But more than that, I should also be congratulated for having the opportunity to win a $100 gift card!

It's hard to hold back the tears.

I also received a request from AT&T:

AT&T wants your feedback STEVE MILLER,

Thank you for choosing AT&T!

As a valued customer it is important to us that you are Completely Satisfied with your recent transaction. You have received this e-mail invitation to provide feedback on your recent in-store upgrade at the GATEWAY PLAZA STORE 747 on 08-30-2010, with the AT&T representative JAMIE MOORE. This input will allow us to better understand your in-store experience and help us improve upon future visits.

While it hurts a bit they didn't offer congratulations, I certainly feel the LOVE and APPRECIATION from the GATEWAY PLAZA STORE 747 that they want me Completely Satisfied.

I know you've received examples like these and it begs some questions. WHY are these companies sending these surveys? Do they really want to know what we think? Do they really want to know how they can improve their service? And after filling out such a survey, do you feel like you'd been listened to…REALLY listened to?

In another post I mentioned about how several years ago American Airlines took a group of super-flyers for a week of golf in the British Isles. It was an awesome reward for all of us. Of course, the AA people took advantage of the opportunity and turned us into a high-level focus group. I clearly remember one discussion when another flyer asked the question, "Can't we get cold cereal for breakfast on the morning flights?" The rest of us nodded in agreement. "Don't you want a hot breakfast, like an omelet and potatoes?" the AA people asked. No, actually, we wanted cold cereal and some fruit.

A few weeks later, American started serving cold cereal as a breakfast option.

I bring that story up because that was an example of a company listening to their customers and actually acting on what they heard. Anymore, it seems that most of these surveys are more driven by the APPEARANCE of listening than any actual listening and responding. Think about it, when was the last time YOU took a survey and then later learned about some major change by that company? But congratulations, anyway.

So now let's play TwoHat Marketing and flip it around. Are YOU guilty of the same behavior? Does your company send out meaningless surveys to your customers? Do you hold focus groups or meet with customers, ostensibly to learn how to build better products, service, and relationships, and then do nothing with the information?

If you really do use that information, then congratulations are absolutely in order.