Lately, it seems that I receive an emailed survey almost every day. There is one airline that I am loyal to that often sends a survey after I finish flying, but not after every flight. Last year, after getting off a one-week cruise on one of the largest ships in the world and having finished its multipage survey, I headed to the airport to take a prearranged nonstop flight home on a different airline. After sitting on the ground in a thunderstorm in Miami for two hours, the rain subsided, but we were told that the plane was required to return to the terminal and be vacated due to the length of the delay, but that we would be back on after a minor delay. As soon as we walked into the terminal, the flight was canceled. The same plane was instead used to transport another set of passengers, on time, to their destination in Alabama, because the plane to be used for the Alabama flight had not yet arrived due to the thunderstorm. Left stranded in Miami, without options or concern by the airline, I pondered the possibility that the airline had made the change in passengers for the sole purpose of enhancing its on-time statistics. On my Uber ride to Fort Lauderdale to catch a discount airline home the following day (since my first airline had offered no available option within 24 hours), I hoped that I might receive an airline survey about this terrible experience in customer service. I never did.
In many cases we receive surveys from vendors, not understanding if they are being sent to merely convey the idea of concern. I always wonder if the time spent by thousands in completion of surveys leads to positive action. Like other industries and professions, some of those in the legal profession have tried to employ surveys. Over the years my firm has conducted surveys of clients, shareholders, attorneys and staff. In each process, we have discovered that a survey can be a valuable tool, but only if those leading the process stick to a few important principles. This column will focus on principles applicable to internal surveys of professionals employed by a law firm. In my firm, the questions asked of lawyers differed from those asked of staff.