A question of breakdown

c: | f: /

You know that sinking feeling you get when a warning light comes on in the car and it won’t drive properly. Fat, saggy, pants.

The ‘engine’ symbol is the catch-all of the modern car. “Something’s up guv. Could be ignition system, timing, fuel injection, or the cup holder.” In my case today, it was accompanied by an incessant beeping — crying almost — from the dash and a juddering vehicle.

Not good.

Limping it to the closest car park I phoned the breakdown people where I found the insurance company had changed breakdown provider and had either neglected to tell me or I’d not put the right sheaf of papers in the car. So I phoned the insurance company. After the ubiquitous metric tonne of random options to eventually reach someone in the correct department, I obtained the updated information — an 0800 number. Not being able to call 0800s from the mobile with my dwindling credit, I ran through the chubby rain to the restaurant to beg their landline. Fruitless, as the staff were “not allowed to use the phones”, even for making free calls on behalf of wet people in times of distress.

The next place over — a Holiday Inn Express — were far more accommodating. The kind lady behind the counter dialled for me and the cavalry were on their way. Thank heavens there are still decent people left in the world.

In an unexpected Karmic twist, the hotel lobby was full of people from the same breakdown organisation I’d called, so I struck up conversation with the nearest guy who diagnosed my ailing auto on the spot and said he would have helped except they had to get back to the conference room. Turns out they were being briefed about the Olympics because every person in the company that serves this area has to be CRB checked, otherwise they are not allowed to enter the car parks to fix people’s cars during the Games.

I thought the guy was pulling my leg. Ridiculous, surely?! I mean, when is a breakdown guy who is called to assist a family’s vehicle going to be in “a position of influence” over any child? If I had my cynical hat on I’d say it was bureaucracy for the sake of furthering the agenda of making sure everyone in the country is eventually profiled on The List.

But I digress. This story isn’t about the whimsical nature of UK law. It’s about the customer service questionnaire I had to fill in after the job was complete.

Gauging satisfaction

I was handed a small, tablet-looking device and instructed to answer the multiple choice questions using the stick to poke the appropriate answers, hitting Next each time. Fairly standard things like:

  • How satisfied are you with the level of service?
  • How do you rate the breakdown representative?
  • How satisfied are you with the diagnosis and repair?
  • Would you recommend us to your friends?
  • etc

But what threw me was question number one.

“What’s the weather like?” Available options:

  • Sunny and bright
  • Cloudy and warm
  • Cloudy and cold
  • Raining
  • etc

I was puzzled and it took a little bit of thought afterwards as I was driving home to figure out the motivation behind asking. The reason, I concluded, was that the questionnaire designer had their User Hat on when they wrote it.

It takes a certain mindset and an insightful design stroke to determine there’s a high likelihood the answeree will be British. Further, to realise the British like nothing better than to complain about the weather; at times it’s like it owns us.

Thus if it’s sodding down with rain, there’s a good chance you’re going to be miserable and you’ll probably score low. Vice versa: a beautiful day will probably get higher scores. My best guess is this question is used as some kind of mood barometer; a weighting system to scale the remaining answers and normalise the result sets to counteract variance in the British temperament due to the inclement or otherwise conditions.


Hats off to the marketing team: proof there is intelligent life out there somewhere in cubicle land.

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