Do you have to be crazy to survey your customers?

Andy Lees

by Andy Lees

December 4, 2014

“Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; bit if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

The quote is from Catch 22, Joseph Heller’s 1953 novel about a bomber squadron stationed on a fictitious Mediterranean island during World War II. The missions they flew were perilous and foolhardy, and the pilots longed to be relieved from duty.

Bomber pilot Orr was clinically insane, and as such he could be excused from duty, he only had to ask. There was only one catch – Catch 22 – which specified that if Orr did ask to be excused from duty he would be demonstrating a clear concern for his own well-being, proving himself be sane. Catch 22.


We’ll come back to bomber pilot Orr. But what has this got to do with surveys?

I was reminded of Catch 22 whilst writing another blog post about long customer satisfaction surveys. It got me to wondering whether:

You’d be crazy to survey your customers, and sane if you didn’t. But if you were sane, you’d know that you have to survey your customers.

Why do I say you’d be crazy to survey your customers? Well, if you’re going to send them a long, boring, ugly survey, there’s a very good chance you’re going to annoy them. And you’d be crazy to annoy your customers, right?

But every day you’re making business decisions: what to spend money on, how to change your product or service, what to focus your team on. If you were sane, you’d be basing those decisions on sound customer data. You’d be crazy not to.

This is the Catch 22 faced by anyone who understands the value of customer feedback.

Despite the absurdity of the situation, Bomber pilot Orr found a way to turn the situation to his advantage.

So what is the equivalent of managers…

Orr’s plan involved being shot down by enemy planes every mission he flew. (I don’t think that’s going to work for you.)

For managers, a better approach is to create a customer survey that is so well executed, it actually enhances your brand instead of detracting from it and becomes a seamless part of your customer experience.

And whilst bomber pilot Orr finally used his unique talent for crashing planes to escape the war – by faking a crash and fleeing to Sweden – you can escape your own customer survey Catch 22 by registering for a free trial at

Andy Lees


Andy has 18 years experience managing technology and data for the consumer insight industry. He is passionate about innovation, fascinated by data and inspired by smart digital products.