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Caution: Aggressive Survey Reminders Can Backfire

October 27, 2010  

When comedian Michael Ian Black ignored a guest satisfaction survey from his stay at a Doubletree hotel, he didn't expect a nagging reminder. "We noticed that you did not have time to complete the survey," advised a second email on the topic. "We are concerned that you may not have responded because we have somehow failed to live up to your expectations."

An irked Black responded with an open letter to Rob Palleschi, Global Head of Doubletree, taking him to task for the passive-aggressive assumption that time limitations prevented him from completing the survey.

"A clarification," notes Black. "The reason I did not fill out the survey is not because I did not have the time, but because I did not want to. To put that into survey language, on a scale from 1-10, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest, the amount I wanted to fill out your survey was zero, which is a little bit below the lowest number I can choose."


Black goes on to explain that no one anticipates a thrilling experience at a mid-price hotel chain, and that his sole expectation was that he would be left alone. Accordingly, while he would have rated his experience as "very good" prior to the survey requests, he says he now "would downgrade my overall experience to just 'satisfactory' because I do not like receiving surveys about my experiences."

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  • by Jen W. Wed Oct 27, 2010 via web

    So true. I get emails and phone messages from a company that I downloaded a white paper from recently. I ignore these, simply because I am too busy to investigate further this company's offerings right now, and finally I got an email saying, "We assume your lack of response is because increasing the amount of qualified leads driven to your website is not a priority for you." What arrogance! I let them know how haughty it was to assume ANYTHING about me and why I had not responded to them. NEVER assume, and even more than that, NEVER tell someone you are assuming something about them. It ticks me off!

  • by Heather H. Wed Oct 27, 2010 via web

    Surveying people is one aspect of online marketing that keeps me up at night. With streams of analytics available, seems we could find a more innovative and creative way of determining the answers to our questions while actually offering value to our clients.

    Doubletree does have great cookies.

  • by C. Tyler Thu Oct 28, 2010 via web

    I don't see what Doubletree did was wrong in this circumstance. It was probably more of a wrong place at the wrong time case with this particular client. Is it unreasonable to assume or guess that they didn't fill out the survey because they had a bad experience? I don't think so. Also is it unreasonable to send out an additional reminder? I don't think so.

    Granted multiple reminders is plain annoying and Jen's situation was truly arrogant on the part of the company, but it's human nature to assume things about others. If my kid is dancing one of the first things I assume is that he needs to go to the bathroom. If a coworker comes into my office I assume he needs something from me.

    Here's another assumption. Black probably was having a fast paced day, or maybe he was hot about something and responded quickly and heatedly. I might be wrong, but I don't think Doubletree was aggressive if this was their second email and the body said something along those lines. It's reasonable to me as a consumer.

  • by Jen V Fri Nov 12, 2010 via web

    Maybe the lesson to learn from the Doubletree instance is that if you really are concerned that a customer had a bad experience - just ask. Don't badger about the survey, but send email #2 (worded more clearly with a clear CTA to call customer service if they could have done something better) and then leave the customer alone.

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