Bogus surveys, Time Warner…

English: building entrance at 4200 Paramount P...

English: building entrance at 4200 Paramount Parkway in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a big fight brewing here between the City of Lexington and Time Warner Cable.  I don’t think of Lexington as a place that would be the first to do…  well… anything… ever.  But the City is stepping up to the plate in Time Warner’s deal to sell the outfit to Comcast.  And apparently they’re first and hitting harder than other cities that are starting to follow suit.  Kudos Lexington!  [you can check out the story here] There were clauses in the original agreement with Insight that gave the Lexington government some power to fine the company for poor service and look out for local customers in a few other areas.

They’ve never been enforced and were lost in the shuffle of transition from Insight to TW, but the City is refusing to sign off on the new agreement unless these clauses are reinstated.  Apparently I’m not the only local customer who thinks that Time Warner sucks (see post).  Since they took over about 1-1/4 years ago my bill has gone up about 35% — no new or extra services mind you — and their service has been reduced to…  I don’t know, other than the folks they pay to give you the runaround on the phone, is there any?

Anyway, TW is responding that their customer surveys indicate high levels of satisfaction.  [Independently conducted research indicates TW rates LAST in customer satisfaction in the nation.]  Here’s the thing.  Their surveys ONLY address the behavior of the specific tech or customer service agent with whom you speak.  And you don’t have to take it.  The agents all mention it and tell you that the questions will be about them and how they dealt with you.  And they’re very polite and kindly while they lie to you or hand you meaningless double talk from their scripts or tell you you have to go to the office and wait in line for an hour because they can’t be bothered to send a truck.  So I doubt that most people (who even bother to take the surveys) are going to say anything bad.  And you don’t actually get an opportunity to say, “Time Warner, you suck!”  Or “quit instructing your agents to lie to me.”

This is an aspect of modern surveys that has been bugging me for a long time.  My graduate work in sociology occurred at the time when the sea change from research conducted in person started shifting to “quantification.”  Though my work didn’t get into the numbers side I had to take a few courses in both statistics (here, I sucked) and how to construct a survey that gives you real data.  I may not have been great at it but I learned enough to have a very good sense of when a survey is so poorly constructed as to provide meaningless data.

For quite some time I took part in Harris Polls.  At first I thought it would be interesting.  Then I continued because I kept giving them feedback that the questions never provided an answer for someone like me — your out-of-the-mainstream, health-food-eating, yoga-practicing, old hippy type.  And that since I had to answer every question I often answered with a lie; which makes the results pretty much bogus.  I know I’m not alone.  In fact I represent a significant segment of society [note:  in statistics/survey speak, significant doesn’t mean majority but more like big enough to have an impact on results].

Since they asked for feedback I actually imagined that at some point they might try to at least offer option “(e) none of the above” so that I wouldn’t be forced to pick the least not true option for most questions instead of one that was actually true for me.  Or in some way try to create surveys that weren’t set up to reach a foregone conclusion.

Eventually I kept taking them because I earned enough points that I wanted to collect enough to get some really good computer speakers.  As soon as the speakers arrived, I quit.  And I’ve been by and large resisting consumer surveys ever since.

Is everybody — or anybody — really fooled by a song and dance like Time Warner’s, claiming favorable results from completely meaningless surveys?  Or fast food surveys that prove people like fast food but don’t provide any questions for people who don’t eat in those places or like that food?  Come on Time Warner.  Quit spending multi-millions on advertising designed to make us believe you give a crap and bogus surveys; lower our bills and give us some service.  Sit up and take notice of the real opinion of your customers.  Otherwise, Roku and a Hulu/Netflix subscription are calling.