Stop Sending Surveys


I was recently informed of a safety recall on my car. Four weeks have passed without a fix or further instructions. But after each fruitless visit to the dealership, I’ve received an auto-generated email asking me to fill out a feedback survey to let them know how they’re doing.

Now, I’m always eager to provide free advice–some might say too eager. In my line of work I strive to support the continuous improvement of my clients, and am happy to do the same for my local grocery store or car dealership, whether or not they ask. So here’s my advice: Stop asking me how you did, and focus on solving the problem.

These endless surveys exemplify a culture with too much communication and too little understanding. They create distance between the one who solicits feedback and the one who gives it. In fact, I suspect in some cases their main utility is not to improve service, but to buy time, save face, and look good to the customer.

I am a pretty simple guy when it comes to feedback. I believe it’s best given in person, and in the moment. I like to perform well and I have high expectations around service, whether I’m providing or receiving. And while surveys can be helpful with large groups and sensitive subjects, they are rarely as potent and actionable as direct conversations. I can change things only if I know what is working or not working along the way. If I am moving too fast or slow, let me know. If my examples don’t make sense, ask me a clarifying question. With this information, I can adapt my strategy in real-time to better accomplish the goal. This will lead to a much better experience than staying quiet until the end, and rating me on a scale of one to five.

We speak often about the importance of pivotal conversations in our coaching and training. A pivotal conversation is any conversation that affects strategy, relationships, and/or results. So if you see things working or not working in any of these areas, don’t wait to bring it up–address it right away, clearly and respectfully. If you’re worried people aren’t fully engaging with a presentation you’re giving, don’t send them a survey the next day–ask them how you could improve. And if you happen to manufacture cars and have recently issued a recall, give people results before you give them a smile sheet.

If you’d like help facilitating pivotal conversations in your organization, send me an email at

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  1. Brian Hammond on August 24, 2023 at 9:14 am

    I think sometimes people don’t like to Critique people in person or provide feedback, but these are the times when its most effective I believe. Always good to help people understand where they can do better..

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