Not sure if it is a Dutch thing, or just a co-incidence in timing, but if the frequency of how often you asked for feedback directly correlated into positive customer satisfaction, then KLM would surely have the most satisfied passengers in the world.

When flying on KLM last week I checked in at the counter in Madrid. Upon leaving with my boarding pass I was stopped by a woman holding something kind of like a very early prototype for the iPad, asking me to press on the screen to indicate how happy I was with five aspects of the check-in service I had just received. From memory I think I scored them highest on every count, as I’d arrived at the airport too early meaning there was no queue, so what did I possibly have to complain about?

Then on the plane, the steward seemed to single me out during the flight and asked if I would fill in a longer paper based survey. Sensing some possible material for this blog, I happily obliged. Some areas I scored lower, especially the airport experience, but this wasn’t really any fault of KLM. I am so used to getting lounge access and not needing it, that the time when I really did need it (having arrived at the airport too early), I found that I didn’t have sufficient status with that alliance, and as a result ensured a mind numbingly boring wait for departure on a hard wooden seat.

A colleague of mine who flew trans-Atlantic the same day on KLM told me that he too was asked to complete a survey mid flight. And then when leaving Amsterdam, and when I was waiting near the departure gate at Schiphol Airport, someone from the airport came and asked if I would sit with him for five minutes an answer his questions for a survey on the airport experience. By this stage I was surveyed out, and the guy to my right got to answer the questions instead!

Survey’s are great, but be careful relying solely on asking people what they think, as just as Ideaworks have written (PDF) in their good analysis on the impact of recent changes to US checked bagggage fees, sometimes what people say they will do bears little relationship to what they actually end up doing:

This anecdotal evidence suggests fees are hated and have been a failure from a consumer perspective. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, “hidden fees” were listed as the top consumer gripe. But the economics of baggage fees tell a completely different story.

And just in case my use of a slightly obscure word in the title stumped you (I know of a number of readers of this blog that have English as a second language), surfeit comes from the French word surfaire meaning to overdo, and in English it can be defined as an over abundant supply.