Judgement Day

Over the last few months, I have been running activities in a care home for the elderly. Like any setting there are plusses and minuses to this but one of the major advantages is that I avoid the weekly dread of the customer ratings. Instead, how successful I have been is judged on how many of our residents stay awake for the whole event. Of course, how awake people in their 90s are is dependent on many variables such as the time of day, if it is before or after lunch and what medication they are currently on.

               In most holiday settings, the guests will be sent a survey shortly after their stay to gather their feedback. Generally, it will be split into several sections such as ‘food’, ‘reception services’ and ‘cleanliness’ and along with their comments, a score will need to be given (generally between 1 and 5). These comments and scores will be forwarded to the relevant departments on the resort on a weekly basis. Many times, the first line of feedback will be ‘I know nobody will read this’ which isn’t true, the comments are read by many people (although if they are actually acted on, is another matter).

               Positive comments are often displayed on a notice board for the staff members to look through while the negative ones are examined for trends. Many comments are about things we can’t do anything about ‘too many hills’, ‘there were kids running around’ (in August), or ‘nobody told us it would be so windy’. These kinds of things come up fairly often. It is also very normal for people to write complaints about things that could have been dealt with had the customer actually said something during their stay ‘would have appreciated an extra pillow’ or ‘couldn’t work out how to turn on the heating so was forced to sit in the cold all week’.

Some of the guest survey comments that stick in my mind include:

  • ‘My sister booked this cruise as a surprise, if she had told me the itinerary, I wouldn’t have gone’.
  • ‘The person in the next room shouted at my children’.
  • ‘Part way through our stay, my husband told me he wanted a divorce and the lady at reception said I couldn’t have another room as the hotel was full’.

               If I am honest, the scores (the 1-5 ratings) are much more important to the managers than the individual comments. Every drop of 0.1% is a cause for concern and examined against every other resort in the group and against what happened in previous years. It is widely acknowledged that if there was a problem in one area, the guest will mark down every department. Also bad weather and school holidays will pull the scores down. If one resort can’t raise its falling scores, personnel changes will be made fairly quickly.

All this means that some people get more attention than others as the staff feel those are the ones most likely to fill in the surveys. In a couple, the wife is statistically more likely to fill in the survey than her husband, it is probable that young people will delete the emails and older people are more likely to not actually notice the email in the first place. This is an inexact science, but you get the idea. If you are ever in a hotel, shop or restaurant and women aged about 40-70 are getting all the attention it is possibly because people working there are worried about their scores.

               I have had colleagues go to extraordinary lengths to ‘rescue’ their scores and keep their jobs. I have seen people writing their own reviews in a variety of pens, I heard of somebody who got fired for printing off lists of customers emails and booking reference numbers and spending a night filling in surveys on their behalf and the old classic of asking people to fill in a positive survey while actually in the building in exchange for a discount or free gift.

               Compared to all this, being judged on merely keeping people awake is much more straight forward.

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