Tackle those phone surveyors with ramblings of your own

Janet's world

February 25, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

When you work at home, you must learn to deal with many distractions - such as the one brownie that's left in the pan on the kitchen counter and the dog that wants to go out. Come in. Go out. Come in. Finally, there is the daily nuisance of telephone surveys from marketing research firms working on behalf of businesses you patronize.

You would think that Caller ID would take care of the latter - but when it is your bank calling, for example, it is always advisable to pick up the phone. Your bank might want to give you the important news that it is issuing credit cards to a lucrative new demographic: high school foreign-exchange students. Many high school foreign-exchange students enjoy spending money yet do not hold paying jobs or have a firm grasp of the English language, so they are excellent credit risks, apparently.

Another thing your bank might want to let you know is that starting next month it will be limiting your free ATM visits to "when there is a total eclipse of the sun."

Just this afternoon, I was sitting in my home office, trying to focus on this insightful column about the state of the banking industry instead of the lone brownie, when the phone rang. Surprise! It was a bank representative conducting a customer satisfaction survey, following up on my visit last week into the bank. I had to go in because I had used up the prior month's allotted "free ATM visits when an Alberta Clipper moves through Eastern Canada."

I asked how long the survey would take, and the answer was "just a few minutes." But before I knew it, I was asked to rank various services on a scale of 1 to 5, and I take this very seriously - after all, this is real research, not some "focus group." A focus group is a paid assortment of individuals who express their opinions for a few minutes, then quickly adopt the opinion of the boorish, intimidating guy who talks over everyone else. This proven research method results in such stellar American products as NASCAR-shaped chicken nuggets and minty orange toothpaste.

Whenever my workday is interrupted so that I can give personal feedback via a telephone survey, I wish to express myself fully in an environment in which I will not be bullied by a focus-group monopolizer. I like to take my time and ponder the questions - until the questioner ponders why in the world he dialed my number.

"Do you have a minute?" I asked after the first question. I launched into the hilarious story of how my bank once inadvertently moved the decimal point on a deposit from an advertising client a few spaces to the left, and how many zany things happened when my business account was credited $5 instead of $5,000.

Midway through the survey, I found myself desiring to rate a particular service a "3.8 - or maybe I'd go as high as a 3.9." The survey-taker asked me to round up, but I refused.

Finally, the frustrated caller arrived at the final question: "Using the same scale, how likely would you be to refer a person to this bank?" This elicited a detailed response from me about how it would totally depend on who the person was.

"Well," I drawled - for some reason I had adopted the "Paula Deen for Heavenly Ham" accent - "my older brother is a financial planner who routinely uses banks, so I might rate him a 4, whereas none of the advertising suppliers I tried to pay with a bounced check would be likely candidates. I'd have to rate that group, let's say ... a negative 1.07."

I think I detected an exasperated sigh from the researcher. But in the end, I guess, I helped him with his job, and he helped me with mine.

Call me back anytime, y'hear?

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