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Answer the Survey

by Tim O'Hearn

This past month I sent Minutes With Messiah to my printer. I e-mailed it on Sunday so that they would have time to print it by Wednesday. The print version is on 11X17 paper with a single fold. Then I ask that a certain number be hand folded in thirds, “with the space for the mailing label on the outside.” When I went in at lunch time on Wednesday to pick them up, I found that they had not even started on the job. The day manager assured me that they would get the job started right away, so that I could at least pick up the ones that did not require hand folding by 5 p.m. When I got there after 5, I found that the job still had not been started. Another manager was kind enough to start the job and get me the copies I needed that night. She assured me the rest would be available the next day. So in I go at lunch, and the job is completed. Except that the folding was done wrong. I don’t know how common sense can get the folding done wrong. I understand it even less when I had specified, in writing and in person to the manager, exactly how they should be folded. The fold job was so inconsistent that some were folded one way, some another, and two were even folded correctly. Because I was not very pleased, I chose to take the job as it was (without paying for the additional folding), and refold them myself. This delayed getting them mailed out. (That is why it is better to get the issues electronically.) On the receipt there was the standard request to complete a survey. By the end of the evening I, for once, completed the survey.

There is a strange tendency among people, and I am not an exception. When asked to complete a survey, we tend to ignore the request unless there is a substantial financial incentive. But if the service is very poor, as it was in this case, we are quick to fill it out. Most of the feedback from mailed or online surveys is negative. We are quick to complain, and slow to praise.

If the service is as bad as I received, or if something needs corrected, it is not bad to give a negative survey. Many companies even expect the majority of the surveys to have negative feedback. They count on them to correct problems. Nevertheless, a positive survey does wonders.

The company I work for once had a policy that every manager and above had to write at least five notes a week about good things done by employees. These often became a joke, especially when someone was praised for doing the minimum expected of them. Many people ignored these notes. But if a person “earned the letter” from a customer (was specifically called out in a positive way in correspondence), that was a major thing. Praise from someone when it wasn’t expected—or mandated—was very welcome indeed.

But then, Solomon (or, at least, one of the writers of the Proverbs) said that years ago. A timely praise is a work of art. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Prov 25:11) The picture is that of an intricately carved niche in a wall. It is waiting for the perfect complement to the silver carving. Then someone brings simple golden apples; not intricate, just apples. The simplicity of the golden accent completes the setting. So it is with the timely word. A compliment can be the perfect complement for a person’s day.