Jun 22, 2022

As a service provider I am always looking for feedback, so I would be very grateful if you would fill in my short questionnaire. Your answers will be treated in the strictest confidence, and used only to improve the service. It should take no more than an hour to complete, and will involve me asking a wide range of seemingly irrelevant questions, giving information that I may, or may not, decide to use in future marketing.

I will ensure there are several mandated fields that must be completed before you can move on, and these will be hidden below a ‘next page’ button, so you don’t know why the screen won’t progress. Instead you’ll get a large red passive-aggressive warning message informing you that you have missed a field, requiring you to find it, then complete it, before moving on.

The questions themselves will be mainly about elements of my service that are so esoteric and nuanced that you will genuinely have no chance of remembering if or how they actually happened, let alone forming a valid opinion on them. Where you do have opinions, the questions will be phrased in such a way that your only answer options are totally inappropriate to express them. But not to worry! I will also include a free-text box so you can write in your comments, although I will either restrict it to 200 characters (including spaces) so you run out before you can make your point, or I’ll allow the character count to be so large (two or three thousand), that your few sentences seem woefully inadequate.

Once you have answered all the questions, the system will inexplicably require you to set up an account. It will ask you to think of a user name, which can’t be your email address, as that would be too easy. Then it will ask you to create a password, which may or may not require a minimum number of capital and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation symbols, but naturally it won’t tell you what the requirements are until you have thought of a password for over ten minutes and typed it in. Then it will pop up with another red message informing you that this is contrary to its rules, and you need to try again. After that it will ask you to think of three answers to inane questions, such as your first pet or your place of birth, but you’ll need to remember exactly how you typed each one (capital letters / spaces, etc) or it won’t recognise your answers in future.

Naturally I will make sure that if you get anything wrong and try to go back, the system will wipe the information you have previously given, requiring you to start again. Ideally you’ll need to complete the same information at least four times before you can move on.

Finally, it will ask you to prove you are human either by ticking a box marked ‘I am not a robot’ – i.e. one that a robot couldn’t somehow be set up to tick – or by spotting pictures with American traffic lights on a grid…


OK, as I am sure you have realised, the above is my somewhat cynical attempt to highlight the absurdities of web-based questionnaires and forms. But behind this is also the specific point I wanted to make – which is that commercial organisations asking for feedback is a pointless exercise. Why? Because whether the service is good, bad or average, such a questionnaire is a singularly inappropriate way of feeding back.

Firstly, if you’re paying for a service, it is only reasonable to expect it to be delivered at a level in keeping with the price paid and promise offered. Receiving service at this level is simply the organisation doing what it promised – so why the need to feed back?

Secondly, if the service falls woefully short, a standard form is unlikely to have the necessary detail, and probably won’t even be channelled to the executive in charge of that part of the service. Instead, one should send a specific letter or email of complaint to the relevant person or department.

And finally, if the service is exceptional, that is most likely down to a single individual or team. In which case the better way to feed back is to let them know, genuinely and in person, at the time of delivery (and their superiors as soon as possible as well). Again, a standard-form questionnaire simply won’t cut it.

So I have a simple philosophy – which is to ignore all requests for feedback by commercial organisations, especially where the only feedback I can realistically give is ‘you did near-enough what you promised.’ Such requests are intrusive, inane and patronising, and rightfully go straight in the bin.

You’ll note I have stressed throughout this article that feedback to commercial organisations is a waste of both my time and theirs. Feedback for creative works is a whole different ball-game. Rather than providing a paid-for service, a creative is offering something which may or may not resonate with the audience, and which may or may not have artistic merit. In which case, therefore, feedback in the form of a critique is very valuable indeed, as it helps the creator understand the value of their work and ways to develop their art. Which is why I will always leave feedback on a book if I can, and try to be constructive in my critique.

And as an author myself, I can tell you how valuable feedback on my novels can be, and how much it is welcomed, good or bad.

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