Tales From the Service Desk: Survey Says

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
tales from the service desk survey says

If you’ve ever had your car serviced at a dealership, you’ve probably received a survey about the experience, either via snail mail or phone. Or perhaps online. This is especially likely if the work was done under warranty.

You’ve probably thrown out/ignored this survey. What you probably don’t know is that doing so may have cost your service advisor money and/or got him in hot water with the boss.

I certainly learned that one the hard way during my time as a service writer.

To be clear, the survey process varies from dealer to dealer, and I assume it’s somewhat dependent on the OEM(s) a dealership represents. It also probably has changed since my time in the trenches, so keep that in mind.

I first encountered surveys during my time as an express-lube service writer at a brand that rhymes with Roymota. I don’t recall the surveys there directly affecting my compensation – we were salaried with spiffs for certain upsells – but one could definitely get chewed out if you had a pattern of bad surveys, or even just one truly bad one. At the very least, you might get called in to explain why customer X gave you bad marks.

I don’t recall anyone being fired over bad surveys – management seemed to think any issues that arose were correctable and seemed to understand that sometimes a customer’s complaint wasn’t the advisor’s fault.

Indeed, one of the funnier surveys I ever saw came from a customer complaining about curse words emanating from the main service office, which was located next to the waiting area, within earshot of customers’ children. Turns out it was the big boss – the man who roamed among the owner’s several stores and was feared among employees in the same way that Darth Vader made stormtroopers cower – who was cussing up a storm. With the office door open.

At least one later stop in my career took surveys a bit more seriously, though at this store, which repped several GM brands (including one that died during the Great Recession/bailout fiasco), the surveys were only necessary if a customer’s car was in for warranty work. I don’t recall if the survey numbers were tied to my pay, but I do know the manager got mad if we got low numbers. He even got upset about low participation – the brass wanted GM to know we did quality work.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t diligent about getting my customers to do these surveys. Unlike the other places I’d worked, it fell on us to make the phone calls encouraging customers to partake. I hated doing these calls – partly because I didn’t like cold-calling customers who’d thought they were done with us, and partly because sometimes I got lazy/distracted by the Internet. Every job offers up some task you’d rather not do, no matter how diligently you do the rest of your tasks, and for some reason, the survey calls were that task for me.

So yeah, I didn’t do that part of my job, or at least not well. That’s on me, and I take full blame. But it was also frustrating that even when I deigned to pick up the phone on a regular basis, customers often didn’t fill out the surveys. They couldn’t be arsed to do so. Earning me an ass-chewing even when I had done what the boss asked. After all, we can only call so many times before it’s considered spamming.

This isn’t my way of working out deep-seated issues with my old boss, I swear. No, it’s a reminder that while you might find these surveys easy to ignore – you’re a busy person, after all, and even if you aren’t, you don’t really want to spend five minutes saying Joe Smith was “very good” or “satisfactory” at his job – they do have a tangible effect on the people who managed the servicing of your vehicle.

So you might want to fill yours out after your next oil change. Just remember not to ding the guy in the service drive because his boss was dropping F-bombs near the waiting room.

And if the coffee’s cold – that’s probably reception’s fault.

[Image: Phoutthavong SOUVANNACHAK/Shutterstock.com]

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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jul 27, 2021

    I could not care less about how these surveys are organized, or whether nothing but a 10 is acceptable to the doinks in "Service", the dealer or anyone else. It's not my job to work out that the numbers 0 thru 9 are fake. I spent years getting three degrees, and got one A+ in Math 400 Advanced Differential equations. Now I'm supposed to hand an A+ out for a less than mediocre performance. Ain't happening . If these jokers think it's actully Grade 4 and everyone gets a sticky-back gold star to put in their report card for just showing up, well screw 'em. They exist in an alternate reality. It's my money and I'll complain at crap service if I feel like it. The other thing that gets my goat is some 23 year-old guy or girl, so-called "service writer" who knows bugger all about anything, particularly cars, who wax on about things proving they should have kept their mouth shut, then telling me I need a "brake service" on a car with 6K km on it. Almost no driving in Covid meant 6K took 14 months to accumulate. $175 to lube the caliper slide pins? What kind of a complete idiot do they take me for? I'm changing to winter tires, slap some high-temp lube on the pins like Subaru did. No charge, the grease is in the fake "Shop Supplies" charge of $13.95 for SFA, anyway. Interesting of course to read about the service ins and outs. Now, what in hell does it have to do with me? Both the local Subaru dealer and the Mazda dealer are owned by one conglomerate, a local billionaire now expanding in Texas from Nova Scotia, up to 50 odd stealerships now. Locally, Subaru service is semi-competent, Mazda service is a shyster outfit. Amazing how different they are considering the group ownership. The Mazda mechanics themselves seem OK, but the Service manager and service writer drones are incompetent. I'll complain if I feel like it and I have on several occasions, both to them in person and in writing, in filling out their surveys, and also that JD Power one I got asking how I felt about the dealer. What a laugh. If people can't organize a team that responds to the challenge it faces, how is that the customer's fault? The other trick they pull is to pretend the problem was "the parts department", not them. As I asked the GM, "Do these people both work for you? Or are they working for separate outsourced contractors but housed under your roof for mere convenience' sake? Because the way I see things, they all work for you and this is one dealership, not a bunch of separate compartments". I couldn't care less if they think they can "get me" in future. I'd never buy anything from them again. The car is great, but Mazda is represented locally by living dolts. I'm not making up excuses for them in my head to behave the way they do, merely to give myself an untroubled mental life. I ran a big department mysel for years, and know a little bit how to make things tick along properly in the first place. These people do not. Send me your survays, and I shall take great pleasure in differentiating between 1, 2, 3 and 4. You want an 8? Who are you? Superman?

  • Psychoboy Psychoboy on Jul 27, 2021

    16 plus years in the industry has taught me three things: A) Surveys exist so that OEMs can take money away from dealerships 2) Dealerships pass the screwings along to their employees d) Bonuses are promises employers don't want to keep If the survey system had any functional use, it would actually ask open ended questions and read actual answers, rather than working on a rating system that is perfect/fail. It would immediately ignore the "I don't give perfect scores, 'cuz nobody's perfect 'cept for Jesus" people and the "A bad score today is a free oil change tomorrow" people. Dealers wouldn't murder a writer's paycheck because the couch cushions in the waiting room were too hard or the complimentary muffins weren't gluten-free, or the Community Coffee wasn't Starbucks enough. This is part of the reason Toyota has gotten out of the survey game. Too many customers gaming the system, too many employees leaving the industry, and not enough useful info being gained.

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.