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)

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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:

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  • -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.

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  • -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.

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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.
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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.

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

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.

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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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