You’re not entitled to a 10

Smoke detectorEarlier this week, I hired a local handyman service to knock out my “honey-do” list so that I was assured a weekend of uninterrupted football watching. The handyman, Eric, was prompt, even calling to let me know he was running ahead of schedule if that worked for me, which it did.

When he arrived, we spent a few minutes walking around the house as I pointed out door handles in need of replacement, exterior bulbs that required changing, bathroom caulking that needed to be reinforced, and a couple of other minor repairs. Afterward, list in hand, Eric returned to his truck for the tools and materials needed to complete the repairs. So far, so good.

About two hours later, Eric tapped on my office door and signaled that he was done. Together we walked into the kitchen where he had something he wanted to point out to me: apparently the portion of the garage entry door jamb that secured the metal latch plate was stripped and no longer held screws. Okay, that’s reasonable. But then Eric said something that surprised me: “You can see that your mortise is elongated and there’s no wood for the screws to grab. Get yourself some wood putty and fill that in. Then, after it dries, sand it down and hollow-out an area to receive the latch. Then, re-attached the strike plate and you should be in business.”

Concerned that my weekend of uninterrupted football games was now in jeopardy, I asked the obvious question: “Isn’t that what I hired you for?”

It was then that I learned that Eric, a handyman, didn’t have any Bondo or wood putty in his truck that would have enabled the repair. Sensing my astonishment, he proposed setting a second appointment to complete the repair, which I accepted.

We then moved to the kitchen island where Eric had placed the invoice. After I gave him a check for the total, he handed me a satisfaction survey that asked me to rate my intent to recommend his service to a friend or colleague on a 0-10 scale, with 10 being “very likely”, saying, “We like to get 10s because then, at our monthly meetings, we get $10 for every survey that comes in rating us a 10.”

While I support customer satisfaction surveys (especially those that pose the Ultimate Question pertaining to the customer’s intent to recommend), I don’t support tampering. Whenever an employee actively promotes a satisfaction survey, he is tampering with the process and undermining the integrity of the survey results. This is especially true of employees who share with the customer an incentive program tied to their scores. It’s a way to cajole the customer into providing a perfect score for an imperfect experience, providing the organization with a skewed view of its actual performance.

After Eric left, I had a chance to go around the house inspecting his work. It was then that I discovered spackling on the carpet beneath a repair. Not a big deal, but in the past I recall hiring an electrician who toted a mini-vac to clean up after himself. That left a positive lasting impression on me such that now I expect for all tradesmen to clean up after themselves. I also came across packaging containing the old bathroom door handle on the vanity of an upstairs bathroom. Later, I found packaging for an outdoor LED bulb in the front yard flower bed. But the real shocker was the incomplete work on the hallway smoke detector (pictured) which remains dangling precariously from the ceiling. (Maybe I’ll get to it during halftime of the Broncos game…)

Here’s the deal: Olympians work hard for 10s and if they manage to achieve them, they’ve earned it. No judge is going to award a 10 for an average or incomplete performance. In the same way, employees (whether handymen, mechanics, salespeople, cable technicians, etc.) need to focus on their performance and let customers determine their ratings based on their view of that performance.

If Eric had placed the same emphasis on his quality of work as he did on his spiel about his company’s incentive program, then maybe he would have earned a 10.

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  • Received this comment from Ilene B. via email and thought I’d share it publicly here: “Great article. Next, write an article referencing a good but not extraordinary experience and how good = 8 and that SHOULD be good but apparently less than a 10 is failing which is ridiculous.” So true. It’s sad to hear employees say, “Anything less than a 10 is considered failure.” I’ve heard this in a variety of settings, although auto dealerships are the most egregious. The real “failure” among these businesses is the inability to glean credible feedback from customers that reflects their actual perceptions of product/service quality.

  • This is a great lesson for businesses that offer their employees incentives for good survey scores. Survey scores don’t really matter. The whole process *should* be used to find ways to improve, not validate how great you think your service is.