Car Dealerships Still Don’t Understand How Customer Surveys Should Work

For years now, we’ve shared stories of how the current system of car dealership surveys is unfair to everyone involved. If you’re in the market for a car or considering a career in car brand marketing, consider how something as simple as a customer service survey has devolved into bullying, pleading, and lies.

It’s unfair to the dealerships, which manufacturers penalize for scores that are less than perfect. It’s unfair to salespeople, who can lose a large part of their income: one salesperson told us that they lose $100 of their $150 per vehicle commission if a customer happens to rate the dealership snacks only an 8 out of 10. It’s unfair to the brands, which aren’t getting honest feedback from customers when dealership staff have an incentive to intervene and tell customers how to answer the survey.

Most importantly for us, it’s unfair to customers, who get follow-up calls or e-mails from sales staff or dealership management offering an all-expenses-paid guilt trip if they don’t give a perfect score.

That’s what happened to Ruby, who received a personal phone call when she gave a bad score to a dealership that she thought deserved one.

“I recently filled out a customer survey after… a bad experience with Toyota sales rep,” she wrote. “After filling out the survey I was contacted by phone and was told off by the sales rep in question about the survey. I felt violated by Toyota.”

While this employee works for a local dealership, in Ruby’s mind, he or she represents the entire Toyota brand. That’s why the company wants to keep an eye on their salespeople through surveys like this. Usually, though, when you complain about an employee on a survey, you assume that the feedback won’t make its way back to that employee with your phone number attached to it.

It’s possible that the survey results would affect the salesperson’s commission or the entire dealership’s marketing budget for the coming month. That’s too great a burden for any one survey-taker.

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