FedEx’s Post-Purchase Survey Request: Good Manners or Faux Pas?

Companies, we customers know you want our post-purchase feedback. We know your stores, hotels, salespeople, and customer service agents receive recognition and rewards when customer satisfaction survey scores are high. We used to be surprised when the waiter handed us the receipt for our credit card payment, circled the URL for the post-cheesecake satisfaction survey, and turned big puppy-dog eyes to us, saying “If you’ve been happy with my service this evening, I’d really appreciate it if you’d complete a brief online survey.”

Today, requests for survey feedback are very common at the point of purchase or immediately after we receive service. We’re not surprised by these surveys anymore. Recently, though, I was surprised and unhappy about a post-purchase survey request I received from FedEx Office. On February 5, when I paid for my copies in the store, the woman who helped me politely asked me to complete an online survey. She circled the survey URL on the paper receipt she handed me. While she had given me good service, I did not complete the survey. I just didn’t feel like it. I’m pretty sure that 95% of customers make the same choice I made that day.

A week later, I received this survey request email from FedEx Office:

FedEx_Survey_Request_Email

This whole experience seems too close for comfort. Here’s why:

  • I didn’t fill out the survey because I don’t want to fill out the survey. It’s not an accident. Reminding me won’t make me want to do it.
  • I didn’t tell FedEx Office I was staying at the Hyatt, so how do they know? This is really creeping me out. I try to ignore Big Data, and I don’t like to be reminded that companies can automatically compare my billing address to the store address and conclude, correctly, that I am a visitor not a resident.
  • I didn’t explicitly give FedEx permission to email me this way. Yes, I’ve got a FedEx account and I did place my order for the copies online, so FedEx Office has my email address. I do expect FedEx Office to send me order confirmations and receipts via email. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if FedEx Office emailed me a survey request for services I’d purchased online. But when I’ve purchased something in the store, I expect the survey request to happen there, if at all. Just because you have my email address, doesn’t mean you should use it at will.
  • I simply can’t figure out “What’s in it for me?” I guess it would be somewhat OK if FedEx Office stalked my inbox to offer me something, but this isn’t an offer. The only one who gains when I complete the survey is FedEx Office.

What do you think about this practice? Do you react the same way I did? Let me know by email or in the comments, below.

P.S. You know I can’t end a blog post without commenting on (picking on?!) the writing:

  • Spelling. It may be just a typo, but “preformed” is unfortunate. Sometimes, spell check just can’t save you.
  • Subject line. I hope FedEx Office has tested the “Thank You” subject line, and that they have hard data that it causes more opens and survey responses than an explicit subject line like “Please complete our survey.” I find the “Thank You” subject line deceptive.
  • Glib corporate customer-service-speak. If you just don’t think about it, the sentence “I sincerely hope we performed above your expectations” kinda-sorta makes sense. But if you do think about it, the sentence — and the concept — crumbles. Why does FedEx Office have to hope it did more than I expected? Isn’t it enough to just do what the customer wanted and paid for?

.

Update: FedEx Office’s reply to my tweet about this post

While I certainly appreciate the fact that FedEx Office noted that I had tweeted their handle, this tweet from “Lizzie” — who must be a robot of some type — isn’t an example of high-touch customer service!

Tweet_Exchange_with_FedExOffice

Comments

It is still such a pleasure to find your e-mails. I particularly liked the article on the FedEx’s Post Purchase Survey Request and also found it quite creepy the way they followed and in-store purchase with an e-mailed survey request. I can’t say anything like this has happened to me exactly, but I’m like the 95% of people who look at the receipt that the cashier at Home Depot circled and handed me, and wonder, “Will I go home, sit down at my computer and type in the URL of this Home Depot survey and complete it?” I sure haven’t completed one of these surveys yet. Can you imagine the spam you would open yourself up to? The cookies that would be instantly linked with your IP address could potentially give the company a wealth of information about your instantly. You could potentially be swamped with all kinds of unnecessary online advertising and possibly e-mailed spam.

Posted by: Noel Lashbrook | March 13, 2014 at 10:31:44am

I never respond to customer surveys: in my opinion, doing so gives up for free, information that others are able to exploit for their own value. I don't think that I am overstating my position. Not only does a person give up an email address, but he/she would also be letting someone tie it to shopping and detailed product preferences -- for this, and other transactions that have occurred in the past, or may occur in the future. Once given, this information can never be recalled, and by responding to surveys, we are giving it to them for free, or for small consideration. Until sellers pay their customers for the information they provide to the same level that they pay the marketing companies who exploit the information, let them figure out our preferences the old fashioned way: count.

Posted by: Judy Mahaffy | March 13, 2014 at 01:52:46pm

How could I, Fred The Survey Guy, not respond here? Reminders are a very common practice in the survey world. Each reminder note gooses response rates about 5%, maybe more. I advise clients to do 1-3 reminders, depending on the situation. It is common practice to email clients with feedback requests, and if I'm reading you right, you get survey requests all the time. Why did this one get under your skin so much? (I want to use a Mae West line here...) It doesn't seem that different from a typical survey reminder. Now, what they should have is an opt-out function, and your profile should include options regarding this type of communication. But how do you know FedEx knew you were at the Hyatt? It looks like this FedEx is built into the Hyatt? Maybe everyone gets that pitch since most of their clients are guests at Hyatt? And the "exceeding expectations" line is just consultant gobbly gook. How would a copy center exceed your expectations? It's a pretty basic service. (We will know that surveying has gone too far when a house of ill repute does feedback surveys.) You want to see some really lousy writing in a survey request? http://www.greatbrook.com/survey_program_misuse.htm And if you want to limit your exposure to Big Brother Data, try Ghostery and Disconnect.Me browser extensions. I love 'em. And use DuckDuckGo as your browser.

Posted by: Fred Van Bennekom | March 13, 2014 at 01:55:40pm

I agree with you, Leslie: FedEx does itself a disservice by being so intrusive. After all, you're their customer; you don't owe them homework or feedback of any sort. And, you certainly don't deserve to be pestered repeatedly. Anther unfortunate characteristic of the current survey mania is the incredible length of most of the surveys. There seems to be an assumption on the part of businesses (or the contractor hired to write and tally the survey) that a customer's time is of no value. How else to explain surveys that take 20 minutes and have progress bars to show how far the customer. Additionally, isn't it a bit excessive to ask a customer "How do you rate our return policy?" and expect an answer between 1 and 10? The best surveys I've seen---only a few times---are contained on ONE page and allow a comment by the customer. How "sincere" could a company's interest in feedback be if they don't provide a way to for the customer to just say what, if anything, is on his/her mind?

Posted by: Hal Brignole | March 13, 2014 at 08:37:44pm

I always read and love your posts, Leslie. I do surveys for part of my job. I know that feedback is important. I sometimes take telephone surveys to see what they are asking (most of them are very biased, which is funny). I might fill out a Consumer Report survey because I value their service and know how my feedback is used. Recently a server at a restaurant put a tablet put in my face with the check that had an instant customer survey. I didn’t want to do that one either, but at least it was immediate, not something I had to remember to do when I got home. But these store receipt surveys? Heck, no. Even if they say I will be entered to win something (usually a minimal prize with high odds of winning), I don’t do them. People are busy; I have other stuff to do besides saying how much I liked the clerk at Rite Aid. Also, they must know, because of this resistance, that the people who do respond represent a very un-random sample (unrepresentative of their customer base). It’s people who have computers, who have time to fill out their surveys, and possibly people who were unhappy and want to vent. You should have asked Lizzie if they have a human proofread their correspondence. Or maybe they “perfer” not to do that.

Posted by: Colleen Blessing | March 17, 2014 at 09:41:09am

I know this is an old post, but as an employee, if we don't ask you to complete the survey, we can get written up and lose our jobs. And if we don't get enough people who do a survey, upper management (regional and district managers) finds a way to demean or punish us. Employee morale is down right now.

Posted by: Scarletta | March 6, 2019 at 10:50:51am

Hi, Scarletta - I am really glad you commented on this post. Your perspective as a customer service agent belongs in this discussion. It broke my heart to read that upper management finds a way to demean or punish you. That's wrong and disrespectful to the extreme. No wonder morale is down! Upon reading your comments, I reread my 2014 blog post. I'm pretty sure I would have been more motivated to complete the survey if the email request to do so had been handled better. Of course, none of my criticisms are within the individual customer service agent's control, and I do appreciate how you're somewhat trapped between your managers' expectations and your customers' reluctance to complete the survey. That cannot be easy.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | March 6, 2019 at 12:24:39pm

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