Ask Bark Brief: Why Do Dealers Care So Much About My Survey?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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 barkm302@gmail.com or hit him up on Twitter at @barkm302.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Dr_outback Dr_outback on Jun 22, 2016

    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...

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 22, 2016

    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.

  • Ronin The very asking of the question "Are Plug-In Hybrids the Future?" is an interesting one. Because just 2 or 3 years ago we'd be asking- no, asserting- that E cars are the future. We're no longer asking that question.
  • Peter Benn There apparently were some K-code 4-dr sedan Fairlanes. Collectible Automobile Apr 2024 has found a '63 500 with HD 3/spd.
  • Mia Hey there!I recently stumbled upon the Crack Eraser DIY Windshield Repair Kit (check it out here: https://crackeraser.com/collections/diy-windshield-repair-kits) and decided to give it a shot on a small chip in my windshield. I have to say, it worked like a charm! Super easy to use, and it saved me a trip to the professionals. If you're dealing with a similar issue, this kit is definitely worth considering. 😊
  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
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