Post-hospitalization phone survey
A few weeks ago I was in the hospital for a kidney stone. They warned me that I might receive a telephone survey from an independent company about my stay. “Sure” I replied, under the influence of dilaudid, “that would be fine.” And they called me this morning, reading very slowly, clearly, and professionally from a script:
“Good morning Mr. Wiman, we’re calling to ask you about your outpatient visit to BroMenn Regional Medical Center on or about blah-blah something-something-something. Would you rate the registration process at the hospital as excellent, good, fair, or poor?”
Uh, I really wasn’t part of the registration process.
“All right Mr. Wiman. Would you rate the staff professionalism at the hospital as excellent, good, fair, or poor?”
Um, just say ‘excellent’ – in my experience if I say anything else it only leads to a lot more annoying questions.
“Not really, Mr. Wiman. Now would you rate the care you received there as excellent, good, fair or poor?”
Look, I’m not going to stand here saying “Excellent” over and over again. I just hate that word “excellent” for various reasons. Everyone did a fine job, I have no complaints.
“All right Mr. Wiman, we won’t bother you again. Thank you and have a nice day.”
“Excellence” is 21st-century Taylorism for the service industry. Once the word “Excellent” infected corporate speech, nothing was ever not-annoying again. Everything has to be “Excellent”. If you say anything else, they come in with “What can we do to make sure your experience with our company is Excellent? Please explain?” So what if you thought the service was as good as could reasonably be expected from obviously tired people who were doing the best they could? How can we push them harder?
The purpose of such multiple-choice adjective surveys is to boil a large pot full of data down to a nice mash of statistics for a PowerPoint presentation to be given at board meetings: ”…and 84.567 percent of our patients said staff professionalism was Excellent…” Folks, it doesn’t mean a damn thing. When a survey-taker has you on the phone, your one goal in life is to get off the phone.
Surveys could be used to extract confessions from suspected terrorists; “Mr. Muhommed, would you say America is unjust, evil, terrible, or the Great Satan?”
“Aaaaugh! I confess! I did it, whatever it is! Just let me hang up the phone!!!”
There is a large minority of the population from whom no usable data can be collected by surveys. Some of us will play along, just giving the one answer that we know will result in the fewest number of clarifications and follow-up questions: “Excellent”. A few will just say; “I don’t want to take a survey”. There are a lot of reasons for this; mine is that I simply hate giving simplistic answers to complicated questions. The result is that the final mash you pour into your PowerPoint presentation is basically meaningless because it omits a lot of reality.
It is an inconvenient truth of commercial life that really good satisfaction data on complicated services isn’t a linear quantity. If you want to know how my hospital stay was, just ask me, and try to get the sense of my reply. This means you’ll need very experienced people making the calls or reading the letters, and yes, Virginia, experienced people cost money. But the multiple-choice survey is dehumanizing to me, and even more so, to your long-suffering employees.
And for what it’s worth, BroMenn Regional Medical Center, everyone did a fine job; I have no complaints. The next time I’m in agonizing pain, I will definitely consider going to BroMenn Regional Medical Center for my mortal-agony abatement needs.