the test

The woman whose birthday it is
– whose birthday it was – 
stares at me through glasses
so broad and thick
it’s like she’s studying me
through a diver’s mask
flooded with brine.

‘I just don’t understand
why the communication is so bad’ she says.
‘Not just bad – I mean – terrible.
laughably terrible. Insane.’
Does no-one ever pick up a phone?
Does no-one ever speak?’
‘I’m so sorry you’ve had a bad experience,’ I say
slowly sliding a leaflet
from the back of the folder.
The woman narrows her eyes
a focusing of disdain
so fierce it would cauterise meat
‘but maybe this might help…’
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘So – once a month we run this Friends and Family test.
Don’t worry. It only takes a second to complete
And what it is – it’s a way of finding out
what people really think of the service.
Now – funnily enough – I had a conversation
with one of my colleagues about it
first thing this morning
when they were handing them out.
Me? I said it was a good idea
you know – getting a snapshot of what people thought
but maybe this wasn’t the way to go about it.’
‘No. Because this way you’re going to suffer from
Confirmation Bias. It’s human nature.
You’re more likely to ask those people
who had a good experience
because you won’t want to antagonise
the ones that hadn’t
even though their views
would actually be more helpful.
People tend to be happy in much the same way
They’ll say Yeah…No… It was okay.
all very non-specific.
Either because they actually DID
think it was okay but can’t elaborate,
or because – consciously or otherwise –
they don’t want to stir things up
and nix the prospect of any
help in the future
– even though we do stress
these questionnaires are completely anonymous
and you’re perfectly free to say
whatever you like.
So my argument was – there’s a psychology
behind the whole thing
that means the results will always be skewed towards
the happy people, who’ll be over-represented in the figures.
Because if someone’s angry about something
you’re unlikely to want to extend the experience
for them or for you.

It’s just too uncomfortable.

It’s only natural.

You’d just want to get the hell out of there.

But this friend of mine,
he said that’s why he makes a point
ONLY to test the unhappy people
to balance the whole thing out
and – well – because he’s a bit like that anyway
you know? Contrary.
Do you see what I’m saying?’

‘I know perfectly well what you’re saying,’ says the woman
pushing her glasses up her nose
with a finger on-point as a nail-gun
‘It’s what I do for a living.’
‘What? Customer surveys?’
And you know what I think?’
‘It’s bullshit.’

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