By on June 21, 2016

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Scott writes:

Dear Bark,

Can you explain the continued existence of dealer sales and service surveys? I recently had my stick-shift 2013 Accord Sport in for a required maintenance, which included an oil change. When I picked up the car, I noticed that the technician had not reset the oil life indicator. So I did it myself.

Two days later, I received a call from the service department asking about the quality of service I received. When I told them everything was fine except that they didn’t reset the oil life indicator, the service rep asked, “Would that prevent you from giving us a passing grade on a customer survey?” I said that given the almost-perfect service, I’d award them four stars out of five.

The service rep replied, “No, four out of five stars is a failing grade, thanks anyway.” This is data manipulation of the highest order, like the NFL choosing not to collect concussion statistics from teams so they don’t have to report it. If everyone knows these statistics can’t possibly represent a true sampling of customers, why are dealers trying so hard? Why should anyone ever answer a dealer survey?

Do surveys mean anything to anyone in the auto industry?

Keep up the great work.

Great question. Most automakers have some sort of bonus program for franchise dealerships. You may remember in my famous piece “How Do New Car Dealers Make Money?” that one of the very few ways a new car department of a dealership can make money is by achieving the goals in these bonus programs.

However, they aren’t just sales bonuses. GM’s “Standards For Excellence” bonuses, or “SFE,” as they’re commonly referred to, measure much more than just raw sales data. They measure “pump in/pump out” reports (which honestly sounds more like something Jack would be discussing), which tells the OEM how many cars the dealership is selling inside and outside its designated market area. It measures service penetration (which is how much traffic the service department is generating) versus new car sales. But, most importantly, it measures Customer Satisfaction Index, in both sales and service.

Nothing less than a perfect score counts. 4/5 is, indeed, a failing score in the eyes of the OEM. So they’d prefer that you not fill out a survey than give them a 4/5. It costs them serious money to not hit these goals — we’re talking five figure bonuses.

Yes, everybody manipulates the data — and so would you, if it meant that much money to you. They can’t actually offer you any free money or anything for giving them a 5/5, but they can offer you a free oil change or something along those lines for filling out the survey — regardless of the score that you give them—and then really, really ask very nicely for you to give them the best possible rating.

That’s why they do it. Not saying that they should, but they do.

Got a question for Bark? Shoot it over to [email protected] or hit him up on Twitter at @barkm302. 

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101 Comments on “Ask Bark Brief: Why Do Dealers Care So Much About My Survey?...”


  • avatar

    SURVEYS: The only winner is the guy who got paid to make them.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I’m a statistician (sociologist and economist with methodological training) and reading about survey manipulation hurts. Every time. It undermines the whole point of it.

      • 0 avatar
        Testacles Megalos

        The difficulty with surveys is that they interrogate individual humans and then merge the data to try to make statements about human experience. Great for populations but says doodly squat about individual experiences. Just as the telephone guy wants me to give a certain answer, it’s my divine duty to bugger up the results. how was my dealer experience? Fabulous, they gave me a brand new car and funded my IRA! How was my dealer experience today? lousy. The kept the wheels and made me buy them back. Would I recommend this dealership to my friends? Sure, they’ve got the best Chinese take-out.
        Might as well keep everybody entertained.

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          That’s why for individual experience you use qualitative methods like proper interviews. Surveys exist to collect great amounts of data that are comparable over time.

          • 0 avatar
            Testacles Megalos

            Right. But how does that help a manufacturer? There are too many variables affecting survey results from individual dealerships. Without a denominator (knowledge of the characteristics of the sampled individuals/dealerships and the local dynamics of interactions), general surveys can only tell a manufacturer how their dealership network is doing overall. And even then it can’t speak to specific factors. So in the absence of collection indivudual objective data, how are surveys helpful?

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            It’s just as you say: It gives a general impression. Good questions, control questions, and the ability to divide the group of respondents by markers (say, “Why are women happier with our service?”) are excellent opportunities to gather data.

            If your ambition is to understand everything and beyond, the fine print of social action, all the individual motivations…that’s impossible, and not even desirable/necessary to build up a comparable data base over time, usable to improve the real customer experience.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I really am curious as to who/what Bark is advising.

      This is all the more true after last week’s column whereby he proclaimed that “clever” marketing was the key to getting a much larger % of millennials into new vehicle purchases/leases.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s no nefarious plot, DW. I think you’re aware that I worked (past tense, btw) for Cox Automotive in the operations department. I’m not advising anybody.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I have no substantive issue with your column today.

          I’m just making a baseless (if harmless) insult b/c you wrote that I “really looked forward to Tuesdays & Thursdays” last week (in response to my comment in your marketing to millennials op/ed).

          So I felt obliged to say something.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Just keep measuring until you get the number you want, never mind if the previous 100 samples were bad! So much for actually trying to improve. The QE in me dies a little every time I get asked to fill out a survey but only if I am going to give a full 100% satisfied rating.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      And the people are so oalfish – “hey you gotta give us a 10/10 to get the free oil change”

      Rather than “would you have any objections to giving us a 10/10”

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Yup, I’ve had or witnessed several perfectly good sales interactions where a 5/5 or 10/10 probably would be deserved right up until the tedious, awkward, cheap begging for a perfect survey which basically torpedo’d the whole experience.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @S2k Chris – true.
          When I bought my truck the salesman was clueless. I tend to expect that since many of them believe the old mantra, ” a good salesman can sell anything”.
          I probably would have given him a better rating if he hadn’t specifically asked to give him a great rating. I was annoyed by that and was brutally honest on the survey I received.
          I got a call from both Ford and the dealer. I told them both point blank he was “no better or worst” than the average salesman but asking for a good review crossed all ethical boundaries.
          Ironically I saw him a year later working at the local FCA dealer where sales manager got fired and the Principal left “under mutually agreed terms” for deliberately misleading sales and advertising practices.

          What goes around comes around.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          It’s a loose loose situation for them. 8f they don’t say anything, you might be happy and give them a 9, described as extremely satisfied, but really you are failing them.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I usually, if I even choose to respond, will give a 9/10 or 4/5 on any question where the answer is somewhere on a continuum. Always room to improve.

            Even worse is the “very satisfied/somewhat satisfied/neither very nor somewhat satisfied/kinda satisfied but a little dissatisfied” dribble! At that point I toss the thing in “File 13” or hang up!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Where there is fear you will get false figures.” – W. Edwards Deming

    Which is ironic considering all this survey carp is corporate trying to implement his principles along with those of Malcolm Baldrige.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      It’s funny, but I don’t hear about the Baldrige Awards anymore. Is that still a thing?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        http://www.msqpc.com/news/2015-baldrige-national-quality-award-winners-announced/

        2015 awards were given in November. Here in NM we still have “Quality New Mexico” which does its own awards and sends select nominees to the national committee for consideration. Likely you aren’t hearing about it because most of the organizations have had to become self sufficient from the membership and aren’t getting much in the way of government money anymore.

        No budget to advertise.

      • 0 avatar
        Fie on Fiasler

        Only one automaker ever won a Baldrige Quality Award, in 1990.

        That should signify the utter irrelevance of both the award and Cadillac.

  • avatar
    fleeno

    I gave less than full marks on an Infiniti service survey the other day, and the dealer called me almost immediately wanting to know why I didn’t give them 5 stars on every item.

    My explanation that I thought 5 was only for going above and beyond, and 4/5 was still very good, didn’t seem to matter.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This is the flaw in the way the surveys are written vs the way they are interpreted. It is written like a 4/5 or 9/10 are good scores when actually you are failing the business in question.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        A dealership near me actually has signs in their service department, stating that a 4/5 is a failure. That’s a mentality that needs to be adjusted. The OEMs know it and they continue this BS practice anyway.

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    BMW is big on this, in service *and* sales. They practically beg you to give them perfect marks, and explain that if anything would prevent you from giving them perfect marks, then – “For God’s sake, let us know before you submit the survey!” I’ve gotten a handful of freebies over the years because I brought something to their attention prior to submitting. So yeah, how can these results mean anything?

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      For what it’s worth, I think it’s effective. There is both and BMW and a Mercedes in my household, and I deal with the maintenance for both. The BMW has little, niggly stuff wrong with it all the time, but BMW promptly comes and fetches it, leaves me a loaner in its place, listens when I explain the problem, investigates issues carefully, completes repairs and maintenance items correctly the first time, and the car always comes back spotless. The Mercedes is much less prone to having actual problems, but for maintenance appointments, it seems to be much more like the lower-end dealers. They can’t see me until a week from Thursday. I have to bring it in. It’s going to be longer than they originally thought before it’s done. They can’t replicate/don’t understand my problem. There are greasy fingerprints on it when I pick it up, etc. The only thing that’s high-line about the experience is the bill, and the fact that they always seem to find $3-4k worth of things that “should probably be done” on a car that’s under warranty and has a fixed maintenance schedule.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    One time I took a car in to the dealership for an oil change, because 1 free oil change was included in my new car purchase.

    Every bit of the experience was satisfactory but not exceptional. It was entirely average. So I gave them 3 stars, which is logically “average” on a 5-point scale.

    They called me up asking what was wrong and how they could “exceed my expectations” and “wow” me to get 5 stars. I don’t really have an answer for that, it’s hard to imagine an exciting oil change.

    If the OEMs are going to have a digital pass/fail scale and count 4 stars the same as zero then they should drop the misleading 5-star routine and just ask “Are you a happy customer yes/no?” or similar.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      I’m not defending the way these surveys are handled in any way, but maybe you should also consider adjusting what constitutes a “5-star” in regards to mundane things like an oil change. If the request is simple then it shouldn’t take much to go above and beyond, either. Maybe they got you in and out a little quicker than usual or the magazines in the waiting room were less than two years old. I dunno… just a suggestion.
      I do agree with your yes/no idea, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        The real answer is for the OEMs to switch to the Glengarry Glen Ross model of rewards. Including “firing” the really bad franchises. Not that the latter could ever happen.

        • 0 avatar

          You do remember 2009, right?

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Bark – Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t 2009 wipe out a slew of dealers good and bad, but mostly small volume mom & pop shops?

            Generally I’ll be glad to pay a little extra and drive a little further to support a family-based business since they have a tendency to care more about authentic feedback and improvement. Not that I’m a hero, but I drove past 3 Subaru dealers (all conglomerate based but decent reputations) to go 70 miles into the sticks and buy my Outback. That dealer did a great job for decades with my FIL and his GMCs…

          • 0 avatar

            You’re not wrong, but the domestics really evaluated all aspects of dealers during the cuts.

          • 0 avatar
            Detroit-Iron

            Funny coincidence. I was going to say that I also remember how much it cost the General to shutter Oldsmobile. Lo and behold Dave M mentions that he went to dealer that his dad had purchased GMCs from. I am guessing said dealer got the Subaru franchise as compensation when they lost Olds?

        • 0 avatar
          Felix Hoenikker

          Hey you!
          Put that coffee down
          Coffee is for closers

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      The company I work for got tired of grade inflation. If an annual employee review gets more than one or two above average categories, they throw the review back for a rework.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I agree. There should be a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating for most service work.
      “Exceed my expectations” for an oil change?
      WTF?
      Is it too much to ask that they do the job right and are polite?
      That is the expectation.
      Obviously anything less than that needs to be addressed.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My surveys have always directly come from GM or FCA so I’m surprised Honda has the dealer question the customer before the survey is given.

    I also always fill out the surveys becuase it is possibly the best leverage I have with the service department. I know it is binary system, so if they do good they get “10s” and if they screwed up they get “1s”.

    • 0 avatar
      Fie on Fiasler

      Such dealer-level surveys were once mandatory for compliance in Chrysler’s much-ballyhooed “Five Star” customer service program. Even if it’s not a manufacturer mandate, weeding out angry customers from the OEM survey process (or, less likely, appeasing an on-the-fence customer into giving the dealer high marks) offsets the dealer’s cost for paying a girl from accounting time-and-a-half to make 20-30 calls in an evening to new car buyers and warranty service customers.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Those 5-star dealers really depended on those surveys, which made them very effective cudgels to hold over the dealer’s head.

        Back in ’03 I negotiated the purchase of a Liberty for my in-laws. Terms were all set, they were paying cash, they just needed to make the 200 mile trip down here, sign the papers and go home. Delivery was supposed to take place at 2:00 PM.

        Around 1:00 they asked me to call to make sure the Jeep was going to be ready. I call the salesman to inquire, and he tells me he can’t check because they’re having a sales meeting. To which I reply: “Try to imagine how little I care about your meeting, and what a p!ssy mood we’re going to be in when your survey arrives.” Profuse apologies followed by prompt checking. Actually got moved up for delivery. Couldn’t have gotten more compliance with a cocked .45.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I get why car DEALERS do what they do, they’re just responding to incentives. But why do car MAKERS continue to treat surveys as pass/fail, given that they have to be the dumbest people in the world to not realize how car makers manipulate the results in response to how the surveys are counted? Wouldn’t an intelligent car maker change the survey to actually give a statistical grade to really see where the chips fall WITHOUT car maker intervention? Just boggles my mind that they knowingly waste everyone’s time with this BS charade.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      So you can stand in front of shareholders and boards of directors and say with a straight face: “We’re implement Six Sigma etc etc etc at the dealership level to improve the customers experience… blah blah blah…” Without any real cultural change – because change is hard.

      Having been trained in all those quality improvement practices I do believe they can be effective but you have to actually want to change, not just satisfy the suits that sign your paychecks.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    That’s a good question. When I took my ’13 Tacoma in for its first free 5,000 mile oil change / tire rotation /inspection, I was told I’d be getting a survey from Dealer Rater, and to make sure to fill it out, but I never got one.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    I’d give them 5/5 for NOT pushing a damned survey… I remember one car purchase where the sales manager called shortly thereafter & REALLY encouraged me to give a favorable rating(“we’d REALLY appreciate it if you gave Jim all 5’s on the survey”). I kinda reamed the sales manager on the survey. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from the salesman… who reamed ME for the negative review… He said he only made $50 on the sale. I did not appreciate the call from the sales manager OR the salesman… so not cool. The dealerships seem to manipulate the data so heavily… I’m sure it gives “corporate” an incorrect picture of the dealership’s performance. SOOOO many sketchy business practices… but to tie bonuses to a survey… bad idea… just asking for trouble. Now, all us car buyers aren’t perfect… we’re all liars & cheats… just like car salesmen… and so it goes…

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    It is the most bizarre system of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, everybody pretends not to notice that nothing is actually being accomplished. Survey scores seem more important than fixing cars or making money. Most customers have figured out that they can blackmail dealers with the survey system and I assume the OEMs all know the dealers are bribing customers for perfect scores and manipulating who gets and returns surveys but the surveys continue. I wrongly predicted their demise years ago but perhaps they will live on until the direct-sale model kills auto dealerships altogether.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Yes, everybody manipulates the data — and so would you, if it meant that much money to you.”

    I seriously doubt that the OEMs genuinely care about the survey data per se.

    The point of the survey is to motivate the dealer to provide better customer service. That includes all of the hoops that the store has to jump through in order to get the perfect survey score.

    The survey process forces the dealer to follow up after the sale and to be nice to you if you weren’t happy. Instead of suffering in silence, the customer gets to complain and the dealership is given an opportunity to fix it. Forcing the dealer to grovel its way to a perfect score is the automaker’s best tool for imposing better practices on the store; presumably, the dealer will eventually be motivated to improve its behavior in order to reduce the amount of sucking up and freebies that it will have to provide in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Thanks for this possible explanation, it makes so much more sense than the OEM’s being dumb enough to use such a gamed system as a source of data.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Pch101 – very true. No one likes to be forced to “suck up” after a “f^ck up”.
      The health industry has done quite a bit of work in how to properly deal with mistakes. It pays at multiple levels to properly address issues and to admit to mistakes up front and as openly and honestly as possible.

      Even if no mistakes are made there are effective ways to communicate with a client that gets the job done without the client walking away feeling pressured, manipulated or out right sodomized. Ruggles attitude towards all this is a prime example.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      “Fives and yeses please!”

      I worked at a dealer group for a few years and that phrase is still stuck in my head. You are correct; the OEMs don’t care about the actual data out of the survey; if they did, they might actually learn something about their customers.

      The issue for dealers is not just the scores, and what is tied to them, but the questions being asked, and the pressure a poorly worded survey and the “perfect score” puts on the staff.

  • avatar
    April S

    About a month ago when I had the first oil change/service done on my new 2015 (yes, I purchased a leftover) Honda Civic the service mananger practically begged me (and offered that free oil change bribe) to give them an exceptional score on the survey they were going to email me in a few days. A day later I received a phone call from someone at the dealership asking about my experience (and their desire for that perfect survey score). I told them other than not placing a oil change reminder sticker on the windshield things were great.

    Never received that email.

    P.S. When they asked if there was anything else they could do better I did tell them it would have been nice if I received a coupon for a oil change when Honda Financial double dipped my checking account when I made my last electronic loan payment. Maybe that caused the survey not being sent.

    P.P.S. Being Honda it kinda bugged me they didn’t do something more than send an apology letter.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    In April, my check engine light came on and stayed on. I had it checked, and it wasn’t the gas cap. I took it to my local Chevy dealer. It turned out to be a bad purge valve.

    Even though the car was less than 4 years old, it had almost 93,000 miles. I thought it would be covered under some sort of warranty, either by GM or the federal gov’t. Nope. It cost me about $190.00. Not bad, I suppose, but I wasn’t too happy about it.

    I filled out the subsequent survey, giving the dealership high marks, but also wrote a paragraph expressing unhappiness that this was not covered somehow.

    Well, it made it all the the way to GM and I got several responses I never expected. Although the repair wasn’t covered, GM still has a record, FWIW.

    I guess these surveys accomplish something, but not sure if it matters in the long run, at least to a customer.

    • 0 avatar
      dr_outback

      So let me understand this. You have a vehicle with 93,000 miles that is outside of any warranty coverage and you make it the Dealership’s fault for charging you for a legitimate service and repair. The way you handled the cost of the repair does not make you sound like a rational person. The vehicle is outside of any warranty and required a minor repair. The Dealership has the right to charge you for the repair. If you want a vehicle with a warranty, buy a new car.

  • avatar
    sco

    I suppose that in a purely capitalist system the dealer should just say “I will give you $25 to give us 5 out of 5 stars”. Company gets the rating they want, dealer gets his bonus, customer gets his cash, company and/or dealer tacks $25 dollars onto the price of the new car, loop closed.

    • 0 avatar
      April S

      I guess them giving cash money for a perfect survey would be considered an outright bribe but that freebie oil change is somehow less sleazy .

      Tomato, Tomahto

  • avatar
    newlexusowner

    I bought a new Lexus a few weeks ago, and was one of the lucky who had the Nav/Radio/phone “bricked” by an update. Luckily, I had just gotten my dealer satisfaction email. And while giving them straight “zeros” didn’t make the system work any better, it sure felt good.
    It’s disconcerting to know that my car can be controlled remotely like that. It isn’t a reach to think someone couldn’t hijack their system, and “brick” the engines on all the cars too.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Wait what car did you buy a few weeks ago? It was a bit unclear.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael McDonald

      You do know that the dealership has absolutely nothing to do with the remote updates, right?

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Of course they don’t, nor are they likely aware that their empty gesture might have real effect on the innocent sucker who was unfortunate enough to deal with them.

        “It’s disconcerting to know that my car can be controlled remotely like that. It isn’t a reach to think someone couldn’t hijack their system, and “brick” the engines on all the cars too.”

        This is not a person who knows how things work.

        • 0 avatar
          newlexusowner

          “”Of course they don’t, nor are they likely aware that their empty gesture might have real effect on the innocent sucker who was unfortunate enough to deal with them.

          “It’s disconcerting to know that my car can be controlled remotely like that. It isn’t a reach to think someone couldn’t hijack their system, and “brick” the engines on all the cars too.”

          This is not a person who knows how things work.

          brenschluss:

          I traded in a late model ES300h for an RC. The “Lexus Enform” app lets me control my car from wherever I am. The Lexus dealer never disconnected the trade in, or reset the program on the car. I still have access to the car, and regularly get updates via email. I can Lock, Unlock, Start the engine, Stop the engine, etc. Would it be that difficult for a skilled hacker to get into the system and be able to do this for a multitude of cars? Clearly, their system has holes in it – that’s why the whole system crashed.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            OK, that’s a very different scenario if they neglected to revoke direct access to a car you no longer owned. If they failed to fulfill their obligations, then I have no problem with you leaving them a poor review, and apologize for jumping to conclusions.

            However, I’m pretty sure most cars sold now have wireless data connections to the outside world for various reasons, so if these systems being “hacked” is a legitimate concern for you, your new-car options will be limited and not particularly luxurious.

            What you experienced doesn’t seem to be strictly technological, but more a failure of process and a problem with the human element.

            Beyond the indication that their software test/QA procedures could use improvement, I’ve seen nothing in stories about the nav issue that would imply the Lexus solution is more susceptible to external threats than those similar. I could be wrong, I know zero details, but I’d be surprised.

      • 0 avatar
        newlexusowner

        Michael;

        I do know that. I also know that their answer was to drive back to the dealership and they’d “fix it”. I was in NJ, the dealership is in Hartford. Turns out all I had to do was disconnect the battery for ten minutes and it reset and it was fine. They could have told me that – good thing I looked it up. I guess I sound a bit like a baby, but it sucks when the radio doesn’t work, and the car has 1,000 miles on it.
        Otherwise, and since then, the car has been great.

        • 0 avatar
          newlexusowner

          Here the email I got from Lexus a few hours ago. Again, I traded in the car a month ago.

          From: [email protected]
          Date: June 21, 2016 at 2:04:23 PM EDT
          To:
          Subject: Vehicle Status Alert
          Reply-To: [email protected]
          Dear ####,

          Your vehicle,’ES 300h 4 DOOR SE’, triggered an alert 06/21/16 at 02:03 PM Eastern Time due to the following condition(s):

          ALERTS

          – Driver Door: UNLOCKED
          – Passenger Door: UNLOCKED
          – Rear Driver Door: UNLOCKED
          – Rear Passenger Door: UNLOCKED

          Sincerely,
          Lexus Enform Remote Customer Support

          This is an automated message, please do not reply.

          You are receiving this email based on your Lexus Enform Remote account preferences. If you no longer wish to receive these emails, disable Email Notifications in the Lexus Enform Remote application on your smartphone.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            You need to remove the VIN number of your old car from app on your phone yourself.

            Lexus Enform Remote > Settings > Vehicle > Manage Vehicle

  • avatar
    Fred

    I told my salesman he did a fine job of selling me a car and that I don’t really like doing surveys so he said he would do it for me. Thanks.

  • avatar
    jf1979

    Former dealership service advisor here, the survey is one of the reasons I left the business. Imagine a situation where you have worked your average 60-70 hours that week no breaks no lunches, it’s been a good week, since you get paid on 100 percent commission, you’re happy because a couple people this week have actually decided to fix their cars instead of paying the hour diag and then going to “their guy”. You’ve gotten a few good surveys in for the week, nobody’s threatened you with violence or called you sexist/racist for not fixing their cars for free in a few days. Then someone thinking they’re helping sends in a survey with four out of five checked, now you are called in front of the service manager and dealership owner, screamed at and your job is threatened, I’ve seen female service advisors reduced to tears. Yeah I hate surveys.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Understood. But if it’s mediocre service or interactions, a survey is a great way to let the powers that be know to jack up their service…

      • 0 avatar
        jf1979

        I understand that in theory a survey can be a good thing that helps weed out bad customer service. My problems with the current setup, revolve around the fact that anything less than five out of five is considered a failing grade, most people generally choose an option in the middle unless they are coached, which unfortunately was a job requirement, I did my best to treat all of my customers well, after all it is a commission based business and I wanted repeat customers, and most of my customers were nice people who I did build good relationships with. Zero and one star surveys especially consistent patterns, should get poor employees dismissed.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        When 99 out of 100 is considered a failing grade, the survey is flawed. I worked for a dealer group for a few years. My office was down the hall from the service writers. The surveys actually have their own negative effect of the customer experience.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    In Germany’s biannual tech inspection, often just called the TÜV, German manufacturers were shamed by Japanese ones.

    Then they introduced “pre-inspection tech checks” with discounts.

    Guess who’s climbing the charts?

    The German AAA – ADAC – delivers data on car breakdowns where they were involved in assisting. Strange numbers, and proper Volvo-bashing in the late 90s. “Sort it by distance driven, too”, the regulator said, and suddenly the Volvo S/V70 topped its class and outshined everyone. These cars are popular among high milers.

    The same organisation was trusted for crash testing, too. Then they were found meddling with their tests in order to support the German auto industry. Repeatedly.

    The list goes on and on. Trustbusting.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s not only the dealer that cares, the salesmen get bonuses direct from the manufacturer that can add up to serious money, but only if they keep their CSI score up.

    How serious? When I sold Hyundais we got $75 each for the first 3 new cars, $100 each from 4-10 (retroactive to #1) and $150 each from 11 on retroactive to unit #1. So 11 new cars in a month at $150 is $1650 in extra pay above and beyond the salary, commission, and bonuses the dealer offers. Imagine an 11 new car month when your CSI is below the threshold. One year I earned $14,000 in these bonuses.

  • avatar
    FOG

    This is all just another extension of a culture that has been created throughout the United States. If a high school student gets an A- in a class their parents attack the teacher because it prevents Timmy from getting to Harvard. One local school did away with the valedictorian in a graduating class because kids who were close but didn’t make it committed suicide. In another school, they had seven valedictorians because all seven students had higher than a 4.0 averages because they did extra credit. It is a Brave New World with no Harrison Bergerons.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Some of you really are talking out of your behinds, you have no idea what you are discussing.

    I have worked in market research all my adult life and have also been involved with customer sat data collection for two major manufacturers and one enormous rental agency.

    Firstly, the margin on this stuff is incredibly small, we do not make much off of it at all but they keep the call centres at a decent capacity and offset fixed costs due to the reliable payment schedule.

    Most programs have gone hybrid phone and e-mail with some in dealer paper surveys. We do thousands upon thousands of interviews per week, all “quick touch” 2-3 questions.

    The absolute GOLD STAR in this regard is Enterprise car rental, their program has been going over 20 years, is masterfully run and filters through every single aspect of their business. It’s so good there have been a few books written about the program and is seen as THE standard on how to meaningfully utilise the data at hand to improve the business. Google it, you will be amazed.

    The auto manufacturers are a bit more challenging and struggle to implement the survey results to actionable consequences throughout the business.

    To address the OP, the agent in question should be re-trained or in reality dismissed, their handling of the call is well outside of how he/she was trained. As for the “4 stars being treated like 0” and “data manipulation”, this is incorrect. All data points count but the employee who served you does have to accumulate a certain number of 5 star results in addition to an overall average score to redeem bonuses or to be considered for promotion.

    Happy to answer any questions except I cannot divulge the two manufacturers :)

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Well, Enterprise Car Rental may have a great survey, but they have lousy service. You can’t ever reach anyone on the phone who knows their hind end from a hole in the ground, and the cars are dirty and/or damaged.

      My family has a rule: rent from anyone but NO ENTERPRISE.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        Not in my experience, even before the work we do for them wI always booked Enterprise over Avis, hertz or Budget, service was miles and miles in front.

        Remember they own Alamo and National too.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Excellent answer.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      There is no way your had anything to do with surveys and OEMs. Or at least not service surveys. What is being said in the article is spot on; post service surveys aren’t used for data collection, they are used to force dealers to address customer satisfaction issues. When 99 out of 100 is considered failure, the surveys aren’t being used for data collection. I worked in marketing for a dealer group for several years, and would sit in the monthly regional conference calls for one of the brands. The conversation was never about what was being learned from the survey data. It was invariably about how dealers with 100% response rates and 100% scores (both statistically impossible) were praised, while other dealers with lower response rates and less than perfect scores were threatened with the loss of marketing money.

  • avatar
    AK

    Recently had my Focus ST in for warranty work. Long story short, they installed an interior part that was clearly broken and then repeatedly denied the part was broken when I brought it to their attention.

    The service manager was so insulting in his stubborn refusal to accept the truth that I gladly left them all zero stars on their survey.

    That simple survey got Ford’s attention in a hurry.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Executives want to do better, but they don’t want to change either their behavior or that of those who work for them. So they implement programs like this, which end up having consequences that anyone except they could have predicted. Example: forced ranking. If you get rid of the lowest 10% every year, what do you think the lowest 20 or 30% will spend all their time doing? Is there any possibility that other people’s work might get sabotaged? NNNAAAAHHHHH.
    Example: customer surveys on which 100% is the only acceptable grade. Is there any chance that people will cheat, or that middle managers with personality defects will use them as a tool to bully and intimidate those employees that aren’t among their favored best buddies? NNNAAAHHHH.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    The whole auto industry survey thing is definitely a pointless exercise. My experiences mirror those of others. Interestingly, my job in the tech industry is surprisingly different when it comes to the same type of surveys (purchase/service experience type stuff). And I’m specifically talking not about $1000 laptops, but products well into 6-figures. There is no pressure to ‘strive for five,’ but boy do you get their attention when you give scores below the midpoint.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I never really understood the survey for new car purchases – they bought the car. The people you really need to talk to are the ones who left and bought something else. A few of those people write letters, emails or call 800 numbers- the people carmakers ignore.

    • 0 avatar

      That would require dealerships to have accurate and complete data in their CRM systems. That’s almost unicornesque.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Is a scenario where you pull into a dealer lot, and based on your LICENSE PLATE, information up to and including a “hard” credit report-inquiry is already pulled on you before you even exit your car (by which time the next “green pea” salesperson in the rotation is at your door, nearly pulling you out of the car as you open it, dollar-signs gleaming in their eyes) a reality?

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Unless I hate the guy badly enough to want him fired, I give perfect scores across the board.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I don’t understand people’s willingness to do surveys. If you want my time, pay me. At the very least, if I do a survey and indicate a problem, be in a position to do something about it. I seem to get lots of follow up phone surveys outsourced to firms which can’t do anything about my problem. And half the time they just start asking questions, assuming I’m willing to put up with their nonsense.

    And yes, I believe in a normal distribution – if you give decent service you can get a 3/5, do something a bit special and get 4. Actually solve a unique problem or do something exemplary, and you merit a 5.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Bark,
    “Yes, everybody manipulates the data — and so would you, if it meant that much money to you.” is a bad assumption. Just because you have a price that’s measurable in thousands of dollars… not everyone does. I guess I’m saying not everyone is cut out to work in a car dealership.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not just the money. In some cases, it’s whether or not you get to keep the business that’s been in your family for eighty years.

    • 0 avatar
      dr_outback

      There are some people that shouldn’t be surveyed. As a Service Advisor I am tasked with making the company profitable so the business stays open and people are employed. If the store is on the verge of losing its bonus, and therefore my “bonus,” then I’m going to be absolutely sure that the client that is only doing “business” with us for what can be had for free isn’t surveyed if they are at all hard to please. That’s just plan good business sense.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I stopped filling out any surveys, or rating anything online, because it is all such a sham. You can’t trust any of it.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Every single service I receive from Hyundai I get a survey in my email about a week later. The last one I gave a few down votes because some advisers were slacking off and not acknowledging when I arrived for my appointment. (10 minutes of talking to each other and texting on your personal phone showed you could care less) Received an email and phone call from the service manager a day later with an apology and note in my records to change the oil for free next time. I never did fill out the survey after the sale though. I haven’t received anything from Honda when I took the Accord in a month ago—nothing when I had the Civic either.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I’ve always thought that the car manufacturers were in the dark ages about this stuff.

    A good industrial psychologist could devise a 15 question survey and predict pretty closely the kind of car you might want to buy —three years from now.

    Get the people to fill out the survey in exchange for free or cheap oil changes, and at the right time the right car rolls up for a test drive while you wait.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I can’t remember the last interaction I had with a dealer person, whether in sales or service, that didn’t feature the survey beg. And given the completely useless, ridiculous way the results are interpreted, I really can’t blame them for asking.

    If the personnel really did deserve a 10/10 (as with the guy who sold me my former Forester), then I give it. If not, but they were basically acceptable, then I don’t answer the survey. I have no interest in either torpedoing their careers or lying. Only if they were truly terrible will I answer the survey with less than a 10/10.

  • avatar

    It’s apparent that when it comes to the surveys, every dealer is in some way manipulating the customer to give them all 5’s, either through begging or bribery. This makes the surveys useless to the dealer & manufacturer, because they are not receiving honest feedback from the customer. That information could point out problems within the dealership that could be improved upon, yet nothing is done about it because the dealership & manufacture aren’t aware of the dealer’s shortcomings.

    If I were to implement a dealer survey it would work this way:

    The dealer must submit a survey request for every sale & every service with the customer’s contact information.

    The customer would be e-mailed the survey with a unique identification number to identify who completed the survey. This way the dealer doesn’t know who submitted the survey.

    The survey would include questions that could be answered with 1 through 5 stars & a comment section where the customer would reference the “star question” by number with his comment.

    The dealer would receive a copy of the survey with honest information so they could improve there sales & service departments. As far as the manufacturer is concerned, they could get on a dealer’s case about very week areas where the dealer is substandard.

    What the manufacturers are doing now is a waste of time & money.

    • 0 avatar
      dr_outback

      Your system is very similar to the actual system. Most of the brands have made their surveys similar to J.D. Power surveys so that customers will answer the J.D. Power survey with high scores. Dealers are asked to get email addresses from as many customers as they can. Their thinking is that the more surveys that are answered, the better the chance that negative surveys are washed out so to speak. Manufacturers also have a toss rate that tosses out a certain percentage of the lowest surveys for the month.

  • avatar
    dr_outback

    I have lost thousands of dollars because somebody filled out a survey with less than perfect scores because they had to leave a voicemail, the complimentary car wash wasn’t thorough enough, the TV wasn’t loud enough, the TV was too quiet, they had to pay for a repair, they think 8’s are great, an hour for an oil change, free inspection and car wash is too long, they got lost in the service drive and never did find the waiting area, the TPMS light came on a few days after the service, we didn’t give them a free loaner for their $70 oil change, they had to call in twice, the tires should have lasted longer, we should accept Discover…

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    The incentives are completely broken and the data is completely meaningless if they require all 5s. Same problem with Uber – a driver I know had to stop picking up a particular customer because she didn’t believe in giving a 5 unless you, say, delivered a baby in the back seat or saved Grandpa’s life by performing the Heimlich maneuver or something. And the problem is that from Uber’s standpoint less than a 5 is a fail. If your rating dips then Uber sends you fewer and less desirable passengers and trips, and eventually suspends your driver account altogether.

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