We aren’t in the car business. We won’t pretend that we know how automakers should run things. However, the evidence shows us that maybe the current system of evaluating dealerships isn’t working out so well. It gives them incentives to lie and falsify data, not to provide good customer service.
Reader Neil scanned this document that he received from his local Honda dealer, even though it looks like he ran it through a copier five times and then faxed it to us from 1994. “Normally when I encounter survey pleading it is done verbally by an individual,” he notes.
This kind of document was new to Neil, but it’s familiar to us here at Consumerist. It’s a desperate act by the local dealership that’s only a symptom of a bigger problem at American Honda and in the whole auto industry.
In the past, we’ve shared shady doings on the other end of those customer satisfaction surveys. In 2007, an insider told us that dealerships fake those survey results whenever possible. “Customer satisfaction surveys are a joke, at the dealer I worked for we would bribe customers with free gas if they let us fill out their surveys when they come in the mail,” a helpful Kia salesperson told us. Our readers have been told that if they put down anything but the very highest ratings, they are effectively stealing food out of the mouths of the salesperson’s children. They’ve also been offered free stuff for giving the dealership a perfect score.
A salesperson wrote in to tell us that this is more or less true: one customer who takes the survey and maybe doesn’t like the coffee in the dealership’s showroom or the finance department and answers a few questions with an 8 out of 10 means that the salesperson who helped them is penalized $100 on the sale.
It’s not just car dealerships, either: other franchised businesses use the same model, and require rows of perfect scores or the store gets a failing grade.
The customer experience is important, and we like surveys. It’s not fair to use surveys to hold employees to an impossible standard.