There’s a trend in measuring “customer satisfaction” – the 5-Star Game.  It happened at the dentist.

During a first visit to a new dentist in my new town, before they provide any actual services other than an assessment of my oral integrity, the hygienist hands me his business card.  He says, “You’ll be receiving a survey and feedback is very important to us.  A 5 is the best.  If it’s not a 5, it’s a failure.  Can I count on you to give me a 5?”  He hands me another card with instructions for Facebook and Google reviews and asks me to do that too.

This is not the first time I’ve been asked to do this.  Cable providers, credit card companies, online shopping… they are all in the 5-star game.

How much stock do YOU put in reviews like this?  Do YOU measure your employees by the stars they get, whether on an annual “customer satisfaction survey” or other numerical scoring systems? Do you ask them to request from their customers a high rating?

Because I’ll tell you, I had some heartburn about the experience at the dentist.  I wondered, does your boss/dentist ASK you to strong arm the clients while they are still in the chair?  Or do you do this because you know the performance management system and you’re trying to keep your job?

I can imagine that many people would just give the guy a 5. For some, he may have earned it. For others, it will be out of guilt. Path of least resistance.  How will the employer ever know?

Insurance covers this dentist so I go back for the service.  Same hygienist.  After numbing me to the eyeballs (literally) he presses me to make my next appointment.  I’m in the chair, bib on, lips out to here.  When I ask him specifically what will happen today, he launches into a re-run explanation of WHY we’re doing it, not what. I stop him – I don’t need to be lectured.  He does the deep cleaning and that goes well.  So, good technical service, poor client experience.

I get a survey from the dentist.  This gives me a chance to give the owner/dentist feedback directly rather than playing the 5-star game.  I use my own feedback tool for this.  Here’s what specifically went well, and the names of the people who were helpful and why. Here’s specifically what didn’t go well – the strong arming for 5 stars, the pressure to make another appointment, not getting clear answers to my questions.  Never ever give negative feedback without stating the impact – so the impact is I have a choice where I go and these experiences are making me question this choice of dentist.

I never base buying decisions on Google or Yelp feedback, or how many stars a business or product “earned.”  I think twice before posting an endorsement on LinkedIn.  In today’s world people know the game – ask and you’re probably receive.   Use the presumptive close with the 5-star rating – “of course you’ll give me a good rating, so just go ahead and give it a 5 so I don’t get in trouble.”

Bosses, are you telling your employees that it’s “perfect or you’re fired”? Or are you implying it?  Do you see any lack of perfection as a failure that results in a chewing out?  Some failures are egregious enough for termination.  Some work DOES have to be perfect.  Almost everything else is the basis for a feedback conversation and problem solving.  You and the employee make an agreement about what they’ll do to meet the expectation. If they do it, great!  Problem solved.  If they don’t, you try again.  If they still can’t meet the expectation, then they will likely be released.  I hope the dentist will use my feedback as a development opportunity with the hygienist.  I hope it’s not a knee-jerk reaction that has him called on the carpet. And I hope it’s not company policy to market for new clients at the expense of the ones they have in the chair.

Something to think about.