Last week I wrote about Audi’s customer satisfaction survey. The numbers and words just didn’t mesh. And there were dozens of questions – many of which were difficult to rate according to their given scale. I didn’t end up filling it out and deleted it from my inbox.

This week I got another survey from another company. This one was from Zingerman’s – the famous Ann Arbor-based deli. I’d recently purchased some olive oil, vinegar, and mustard from their site.

Here’s the email they sent:

That’s a fantastic email. Short, friendly, clearly written by someone who understands tone, brand, and how to get feedback that’s useful. No tricks. Yes, it’s automated, and signed by a team, but that’s fine. It was originally written by someone who cares. It’s consistent with Zingerman’s casual catalog voice, too.

They have a 0-10 scale just like Audi. Except they only have one question. “How likely are you to recommend Zingermans?” That question sums up just about everything. They consider 0 “not a chance” and 10 “in a heartbeat”. The rest is up to you.

And they don’t ask you to click over to a web-based survey somewhere. They just say, hey, reply to this email with a number and, if you have time, let us know why you gave us this rating. Your reply is your answer, that’s it. There’s nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. Easy.

Then they say: “We are a small crew in the service center, we read every word and we try to do better all the time.” That alone makes me want to give them feedback. I know I’ll be heard. I believe I’ll be heard. The Audi survey? It feels like it’s going straight into a database. I’m an aggregate stat, not a person, not a customer.

It would be easy to say that Audi’s survey will give Audi more detailed feedback. More data points attached to specific experiences. And it would be easy to say that Zingerman’s question is too broad, too difficult to act on a “7” with no other information.

But I’d wager that Zingerman’s gets more useful feedback than Audi gets. That one question – answered simply with a reply to an email – probably leads to more valuable, subtle feedback than the dozen-question, extremely detailed , slippery Audi survey.

The Zingerman’s survey feels like it’s written by someone who’s curious about the answer. The Audi survey feels like it’s written by someone who’s collecting statistics. Which company do you think really cares more?