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