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Chris van Schaick: why are businesses so desperate for feedback?

PUBLISHED: 15:24 22 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:31 22 July 2015

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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This month, Chris van Schaick discusses why it is that businesses are so desperate to ask...’’How was it for you?”

I had supper with an old friend the other night. I chose the haddock. He plumped for the cod and we each had a couple of glasses of dry white wine. I only mention these slightly humdrum details to make the point that it was a pleasant but unremarkable evening.

So it raised an eyebrow when I got an email from the restaurant booking website asking for feedback on the haddock experience. It reminded me I’d also had one from the Audi main dealer, asking to what extent the service they’d just done on my car had surprised and delighted me.

Sorry to disappoint the blokes at the garage. But however good an oil change is, there’s very little chance of it either surprising or delighting me.

Yet the desperate thirst for feedback is everywhere we turn. You begin to search out those havens of tranquillity where people don’t ask how it was for you.

Down at the pub, they seem to be perfectly happy to push a pint of Upham and a bag of ready salted across the bar without following up with a ten point questionnaire related to their key performance indicators.

And when Stuart drops off a truck load of logs, how refreshing it is that all he wants in return is the money and not a verdict on the level to which his log deliveries sometimes meet, often meet, always meet or never meet my expectations of a consignment of well-seasoned ash and oak.

When they come to empty the septic tank, I wonder if the bloke with the truck will press a form into my hand asking for my assessment of the experience, calibrated against the key drivers of world class sludge removal?

Come to think of it though, the amount of feedback in our house has also increased significantly over time. But it’s me who tends to be the recipient.

It’s possible that the extent to which I surprise and delight Mrs. v.S. may have levelled off on the graph over the last few quarters. But that’s not for want of timely and measurable feedback on areas like choice of jumpers, posture, frequency of dunking biscuits in mugs of tea, levels of attentiveness during Strictly Come Dancing, effectiveness in loading the dishwasher and other important behavioural measures.

Like all good feedback, it’s set in the context of a regular framework of performance appraisal. Only, the other day Mrs. v. S. set me a robustly expressed objective not to be such a plonker. We have, as they say, “diarised” a series of review meetings to check my progress against this strategically aligned goal.

I sometimes get feedback from Mrs. v.S. on how I behave at dinner parties. So next time we’re invited to a Saturday evening in one of the Meon Valley’s lovelier homes, I’m going to devise an online questionnaire. About 10am on the Sunday, it will pop up on Mrs. v.S.’s smart phone. It will ask her to rank between 1 (poor) and 5 (excellent) my performance against indicators such as my charm to the hostess, the moderation I show in wine consumption and my tact on controversial subjects. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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