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AttnewlogoMy wife, Kay, got a new cell phone this week from AT&T. I'm an iPhone user, so we're sort of stuck with AT&T for now. It's not that I'm an AT&T hater, like some others. I don't really have that much trouble with their service. But I do hate the fact that I don't really have a choice, if I want to use the iPhone. It's sort of like being in the American Airlines Frequent Prisoner Program.

Our salesperson, John, was a good guy and very helpful. Kay had some concerns about getting a phone that would be a good fit for her needs without going completely overboard with features and stuff she didn't want. John seemed to fill the bill. While Kelly and I busied ourselves playing with the other phones, he smartly guided Kay to a selection and then, like any good salesperson, managed to add several accessories to the sale.

As we headed for the door, John stopped us. "In a few days, you'll receive our customer satisfaction survey. Would there be any reason you would not rate my service a "5" out of "5" today?"

Like I said, John was very helpful. He did a good job and Kay was satisfied. We were also on our way to the Outback Steakhouse. Kelly and I had a Bloomin' Onion on the brain. We wanted to leave.

"No, no reason, John. We're very satisfied. We'll give you a '5.' "

But this picture is wrong on so many levels.

First, it completely irritates me that companies, like AT&T, set up a way to supposedly track how I felt about a purchase experience, and then allow their employees to game the system. By asking us the question, John played us into giving him the survey responses he needed. I'm sure most of his customers give the same response and then when the survey does arrive, they feel compelled, almost guilted, into doing what they promised to do.

Clearly, if AT&T wants to learn how to provide better customer service, this is not helping. C'mon, let's be real. On a 1-5 rating scale with 5 being highest, what should a "5" really mean? In my book it means the experience was off the charts…not just good…not just better than expected. It was unexpectedly great! It was WOW! In my book a "5" should be an experience I would share in keynote speeches and write a case study about. John was good, but not that good.

Maybe the whole "Satisfaction" Survey dealie is mislabeled. Were we satisfied? Yeah, sure we were. In fact, I would say we were more than satisfied. But did the experience make us LOYAL? Did it make us EVANGELISTS for AT&T? Uh, that would be NO.

You see, it's actually pretty easy to make me satisfied. Just meet my expectations. That makes me satisfied. And if you've spent time on any airline these days, like me, you know my expectations are pretty low, so it's easy!

But satisfied is not the same as loyal. Satisfied does not create word-of-mouth. Satisfied does not necessarily mean I'll be a repeat customer.

It would make a lot more sense if AT&T did a "Customer Loyalty Survey." Ask questions like:

  • Were you ecstatic with our customer service?
  • Will you absolutely buy from us again?
  • Have you told others about the awesome customer experience you had
    with us?
  • Would you enthusiastically recommend us to your friends, family, and peers?
  • Were you so happy, you actually thought about giving us more money?

Now THAT would be a survey I'd like to see.