An Egregious Case of Survey Begging

Survey begging is a scourge on customer service.

This is when an employee asks a customer to give a positive score on a survey by explaining how it will directly benefit the customer, the employee, or both.

For example, here's a receipt from the now defunct Sports Authority that clearly indicates what score the customer is supposed to give. The cashier backed this up with a verbal entreaty to mark the survey "highly satisfied."


I recently experienced one of the most egregious examples I've seen. I'm sharing it with you now as a cautionary tale.

My wife, Sally, and I were checking out of a hotel and went to the front desk to get our receipt. The associate helping us looked me straight in the eye and said, "You may get a survey; I'd appreciate it if you gave us all tens."

Never mind this was a violation of the hotel's policy. It was poor customer service to so blatantly ask for a good survey score. Worst of all was the associate never asked any basic questions to see if those tens were merited, such as "How was your stay?"

I often learn more about what motivates employees to do this so I replied, "Did you just ask me to fill out a survey and give you all tens?"

"Yes," he replied with a smile.

"You don't want me to fill out a survey."

"Why not?" he asked.

I proceeded to tell him my experience was definitely not all tens. The reason I was at the front desk checking out was I never received my receipt via email. A ten experience would involve me getting that email so I could skip the minor inconvenience of stopping at the front desk. (Pro travel tip: you don't need to actually check out at most hotels. You'll be checked out automatically.)

I also told the associate I did not receive any confirmation that loyalty points had been added to my account in return for opting out of housekeeping service one night during my stay. That would have happened automatically if my experience was a ten.

So far I thought I was doing the guy a favor. I was giving him honest and direct feedback rather than sharing it in a survey where my score would certainly be lower than a ten. There were more issues, such minor cleanliness and maintenance problems with my room, but the associate had already heard all he wanted to hear.

"Thank you," he said. "I'll be sure to share that feedback with my manager. I'd also appreciate it if you mentioned me in the survey and gave me a 10 for listening to you and respecting you as a man."


I had just witnessed the elusive double survey beg! This associate doubled down by appealing to some sort of bro code in hopes that I would give him a perfect survey score.


How Survey Begging Hurts Your Business

Survey begging can discourage honest feedback that would otherwise alert you to an issue. It's also a huge turn-off to many customers. 

In my case, my stay was mediocre. Nothing to rave about and a few minor complaints that didn't really seem worth mentioning unless someone asked. I gladly would have shared my honest feedback with the associate if he had handled things differently. He may even have earned my repeat business with an assurance that things would be improved. 

Not now. Mediocre experience + survey begging = do not return.

There's no way I'm the only guest this happened to that day. There's a good chance that hotel loses five repeat guests per day from survey begging. Maybe more, it's hard to tell.

The worst part is there is no data point out there to capture why this hotel is losing customers. 


Take Action!

Customer service leaders should take time to explain the purpose of a survey to their employees. They should make it crystal clear that the point is to get honest feedback that will help improve service, not land a target score.

Sadly, customer service leaders often cause employees to beg for survey scores through incentives, punitive policies, and other actions that focus on getting a certain score. 

You can find examples of ways leaders accidentally prompt survey begging plus several tactics to get employees by reading here.

Should Survey Rating Scales Be Even or Odd?

There's a long-running debate about customer service survey rating scales.

Some people think they should be even, such as a survey that asks customers to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1-4.


Others think survey scales should be odd, making the customer satisfaction scale go from 1-5.


Let's take a look at both arguments where you'll see there's one clear answer.


The Case for Even Rating Scales

Proponents of an even survey scale argue this design forces customers to choose a positive or negative response.

There's no room for wishy-washy, neutral ratings. A customer is either satisfied or unsatisfied. Here's how that breaks down on a 1-4 scale:

1=highly dissatisfied
4=highly satisfied

Some people might even point to the simplicity of the thumbs up, thumbs down rating scales that many surveys now use. Even Netflix recently ditched its five star rating system in favor of this one. 

There's a glaring hole in this argument: bias

A good survey shouldn't lead customers to one answer or another. It should allow customers to give their actual response, even if its neutral. The whole argument for even scales is making customers adjust their rating.

This is why even scales made my list of nine underhanded ways to boost your survey scores.


The Case for Odd Rating Scales

This argument is based on math.

An odd-numbered scale contains a statistical mid-point. Here's how that breaks down on a 1-5 scale:

1=highly dissatisfied
3=neutral (mid-point)
5=highly satisfied

The neutral mid-point is the reason the creators of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) advocate a scale of 0-10 rather than 1-10. It's also the reason the inventors of the Customer Effort Score (CES) advocate a scale of 1-7 instead of 1-6 or 1-8.



A good customer service survey starts with a clear purpose.

Are you doing a survey to get actionable feedback or are you just trying to make your scores look good? My advice is to stick with an odd-numbered rating scale if you want unbiased customer feedback that will help you improve your company's customer service.