My pocket chirrups as I descend the steps from my bank. The text message asks me to rate my recent customer experience. This happens to be one of a hundred or more perfectly routine transactions I’ve made at that bank.
Irritated, I delete the text.
At school, there was a girl who was forever checking what people thought of her. Sadly, the answer was ‘not much’, but this didn’t stop her beaming at everyone and trying to decipher their expressions. When she couldn’t read the emotional temperature, she would ask what we thought. I wince to report that we thought our classmate stupid. Looking back, however, she was well ahead of her time.
These days, Waitrose sends me emails asking how my groceries were. Would I rate and review them?
I get similar requests after almost every commercial interaction of the day. If not during it. A text thanks me for travelling with Addison Lee, and invites me to rate the driver. I get this message before I’ve even reached the destination.
Ditto Moonpig, who want to know how everything went with the card I ordered. It’s not even scheduled to be delivered till next week. Stop asking me!
Now an email thanks me for collecting my parcel from the Spar in Chesterton Road, and asks me how I would ‘rate the service in store’.
The bottom line? It was fine. I got my parcel. Had the guy behind the counter not found it, or handed me a damaged parcel or something entirely different like a Mars Bar or a lottery ticket, you can be sure I’d have let someone know, loud and clear. Feedback can certainly be useful. Book reviews, for instance, help guide the author as well as people looking for their next read – though it’s worth noting that the most useful reviews have actual words in them, not just a star rating.
Evaluations from the students I teach can also be valuable, if they help improve the outcome for the next lot.
For feedback to be most useful to others, it pays to ask the right questions. One pension provider invites me to rate my recent dealings with them. A more pertinent point might be whether I was happy with the return on my investment.
Nowadays, detailed feedback from patients is an integral part of a doctor’s appraisal process. It’s a two-page form that demands a certain level of literacy and attention. That makes it difficult for many patients, especially those who’ve just had bad news or been sent to hospital.
Feedback from colleagues is even harder to come by. In smaller practices, family doctors may resort to asking people they haven’t worked with for years, just to make up the numbers.
Feedback shouldn’t be just about collecting all the data we can, because we can. To have any value, it needs to be more selective, and to ask the right questions at the right time.
If you’ve read a book you enjoyed lately, please think of leaving a review on Amazon or your favourite reading site. It doesn’t have to be long, just your overall impression and anything you’d like the author and prospective readers to know.
Here’s more detailed guidance, should you feel like it: How to write critical book reviews – and why I think you should, by Debbie Young.