Anything less than an 'A' is an 'F': The Stupidity of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

I have purchased a few new cars. I have also helped others in the process of buying new cars. There are many commonalities in the new-car-buying process no matter what brand you are buying.

As you are near the end of the pruchase process, one thing you will eventually hear from the salesperson is this:

“In a few days, you will be getting a survey from (Brand of Car) by (Mail/E-mail/Carrier-Pigeon/Naked Deliverygirl). If you don’t mark everything as a (10/excellent/phenomenal), it is considered a failing grade for me. If you can’t give us the highest grade possible in any category, please let me know before you send it in so I don’t get hung up from the dealer floor by my big toe. PLEASE!!!!”(Ok, I added that last part)


Over the years, this whole survey process and pity-party has bothered me more and more.

First off, buying a new car falls somewhere between a root-canal, and cleaning up the diarrhea that your dog had after eating an entire container of baby formula (Don’t ask) on the enjoyment-index. I consider it a victory that when I leave, I, or the person I helped simply feels like they were treated to a fair deal and like a decent human being. It’s a shame that the car-buying process is so adversarial and convoluted.

(From my most recent survey. Just remember, 1-9 are all unacceptable.)

Does that sound like an experience that is worthy of a ‘10’? No, it doesn’t. And I’m sure most people reading this would feel the same.


To me, a ‘10’ rating would have to be an insane amount of money off the sticker price, not having to sit through the ‘finance-guy’ process of trying to be sold VIN-etching, paint-protection, hippo-attack-insurance, etc…., and getting a nice massage through the whole car-buying process, hopefully with a happy ending.


(Photo courtesy of Big Two Toyota, which apparently does offer massages. I don’t know about the happy-ending though)

So, when the salesman once again reiterates to me how important this survey is to him, I just smile and lie through my teeth telling him that I’ll send it in with perfect scores.


In reality, I’m not going to do the survey. I’m not going to pick up the phone for the 50-phone calls that they make trying to get me to do it. I’m not going to click on the 30 links to a survey that I have been e-mailed, and I’m not going to mail back the 5 paper surveys that I have received in the mail either.

So automakers and dealerships. If your survey is that important to your business model, here’s a couple things that you can do:

  • -Pay me.

If you tell me you’ll mail me a $100 Visa Gift Card for doing your survey, I will gladly do it. For $100, I might even throw in a ‘10’ here or there. If the gift card is for $20, I’ll do my best I can to mail it back without taco-sauce from dinner spilled all over it.

  • -Stop having your salespeople guilt-tripping me.

When I bought my STi this past summer, it was actually one of the better experiences that I’ve had buying a car. My salesguy was nice, knowledgeable, and helpful. I went in with reasonable requests, and they were met with minimal negotiation. That said, the experience was still anxiety-inducing and I didn’t leave feeling like I got a bargain (but I had realistic expectations about that as well). Even still I would probably rate the overall experience a ‘7’ or ‘8’ and individual parts of the survey would have some variance around that general range.


But because of the insinuation that I received from the salesman that he would actually be penalized if he didn’t get a perfect score, I’m really left with two three choices:

  • Send back a perfect survey, which I see as diminishing to my integrity
  • Opt-Out
  • Send back a blank survey with comments (Thanks NYYankee1927). This is probably the most reasonable/diplomatic solution to the process. You can recognize all the things/people you want to recognize, and you can also address the areas you think need to be improved but they don’t have their number data to feed into the stat-machine.

Considering that I liked my salesman and I don’t want to get him in trouble, and there is no way in hell I’m compromising my integrity over a car-purchase, opting-out becomes the only option.


(The ‘Please give me 10’s or I’ll be fired look. Photo courtesy of ·

And this type of survey-model is nothing new and in-fact seems to becoming the new normal in many different businesses. I think that being able to say:

‘We have a 100-percent Customer-Satisfaction rate based on our feedback.’

is more valuable to a business than truthful surveys that might be able to point out individual areas where a business could make improvements to make their product/experience better. Plus, as I found in an article on Edmunds, these surveys are held over the sales staff’s head in regards to bonuses, promotions, and firings.

In car dealerships, it’s common to hear a salesperson ask — even beg — for a customer who has just bought a car to give him top marks in the customer satisfaction survey that will soon arrive. Here’s why: The salesperson’s pay, and potentially, the job itself, may very well depend on getting perfect 10s in this survey.


So anyways, this is just something else to think about when buying a new car. And if anyone is or was a salesman, do you actually get in trouble if a customer sends back a less-than-perfect survey? I would really like to know what happens to you when someone sends in an ‘honest’, but positive survey.

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