Fill Out Our Survey, But Don’t Tell Us What You Really Think

By Anthony Vengrove

I don’t like watching companies completely blow good opportunities to learn and capture insights that can help improve their business.  In my opinion, no one does this better than car dealerships.

If you recently purchased a new car or took one in for service, then you likely have experienced their customer service survey “talk.”  It basically goes this like this: “You should receive a email in a few days requesting that you fill out a customer survey.  Just so you know, anything less than perfection (i.e. a ‘10’) is considered a failure and I won’t get paid my full commission.”  To make matters even more absurd they usually add, “So if you’re not completely satisfied please tell me now so I can resolve your concerns.”

What do most consumers tend to do?  We head for the hills!  The last thing you probably want is to get caught up debating whether your tire rotation was worthy of a ’10.’  So, we go home and usually fill out the survey with glowing reviews because we feel bad the sales associate’s income is tied to such a foolish survey system.

Of course, dealerships that employ this type of “research” are missing out on a great opportunity to get real data and learn from it.   Instead, they’re essentially pressuring their customers into providing positive reviews, probably so they can meet customer service goals from corporate or live under the illusion that their staff is actually providing optimal customer service.  The dealership might feel warm and fuzzy at the end of the year but there’s a huge opportunity cost left on the table.

The main objective of soliciting this type of consumer information is not to confirm that you’re doing a fantastic job, but to understand where you’re underperformingUnderstanding where you are falling short allows you to learn, change and improve.  Anything less is a charade, pure and simple.

Imagine if dealerships instead encouraged honest and candid feedback from their customers?  Imagine if they listened and took action to address poor marks?  Don’t we all know that the biggest opportunities for growth come by learning from our failures?   Feedback is a gift.

Financial transactions in the automotive industry are costly and therefore can be emotionally charged and difficult to navigate.  There’s certainly a huge opportunity to collect a lot of actionable comments and real, raw feedback.  Dealerships might not enjoy hearing it all, but it’s valuable consumer insight.

Dealerships can fix this by incentivizing the right behaviors of their employees and stop penalizing failure.  A ‘pass/fail’ approach will only encourage employees to get the ‘pass’ grade at all costs – and ignore the true opportunities to provide a more consumer-centric experience.