• Aug 28, 2007


Most people that purchase a brand-new car from the dealer lot have heard about the forthcoming customer satisfaction survey that will be mailed to their home. While some dealers will ask you to fairly assess their performance, others will try to manipulate scores with overt suggestions and even begging. A recent study by automotive research firm TrueDelta of 1,700 survey takers showed that nearly half of all dealerships tried to manipulate satisfaction scores, and one in four were asked to provide perfect scores by dealer employees. In the end, all the cajoling worked, as one in eight admitted to inflating their scores at the behest of the dealership. The study also pinpointed which OEM dealers were the worst offenders, and BMW, Hyundai, and Nissan comprised the axis of manipulation.

As the scribes at Automotive News point out, satisfaction scores are big business, and everything from ad support to additional franchise opportunities are rewards for dealerships that score above average in customer satisfaction. Poor scores can result in the cold shoulder from the OEM to the Grim Reaper taking away the right to sell cars. Even when we actually buy a five-figure vehicle off the lot, most dealerships keep the pressure on with additional insurance or warranty coverage, inflated interest rates, and even the satisfaction survey we take months later. It's a wonder buying cars on the Internet isn't more popular.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]


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  • 36 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've been to two different Nissan dealerships, one was great, the other, unfortunately was not. BMW begging cutomers to rate them highly?....WOW. Now Hyundai, I might have guessed that one. I'm also surprized that the "domestic" manufacturers aren't the worst for this. I have heard several people say, on this website I believe, that Chrysler really tries to brow beat the scores out of it's cutomers.

      And Gil, while I realize that it's not a very good idea that "someone's pay is tied into another person having a good day and rating you "perfect".........don't many folks in many different service jobs run into this every day? How much I make as a pizza delivery person on any given day is often tied into how the customer is feeling, and NOT the level of service I provided. Yeah, it's stupid, but car salespersons aren't the only ones who suffer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I experienced this when I bought my BMW. They basically forced me to fill it out in front of them and said that if it wasn't perfect I'd need to talk to the manager. Of course I just want out of the place so I fill it out with a perfect score and leave.
      I think this is failry common even at non-automotive places. These crappy customer sat surveys are EVERYWHERE and they're getting annoying. If you're in mgmt and you don't know how sucky your service is then you should find another line of work.

      Usually the way these surveys work is that mgmt knows their company policies promote bad service but put it on the front end grunt to make it all nice. Then when a bad survey comes in it's the front end grunt who gets whipped - the policies never change. That's why I almost always give positive surveys these days. It's not the fault of some phone company rep that the phone company sucks, but that's who'll get the hit when a customer says they're not happy with the service they receive. Having been on the wrong end of that stick, there's no way I can be a part of that any longer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      i'm not going to say anything about the dealership that i work at and what they may or may not do in relation to these surveys (rest assured though, it's significantly less than prefilling them out, and does let the customer make any and all decisions without influence), but i will say someting about my pay plan.

      the vehicle make that i sell has little to no markup, which actually means that i can sell at least three products we carry at full list and only make minimum commission. now, if i get a perfect survey, that minimum commission is now THREE TIMES what it was.

      do i try to make every customer happy? yes i do. do i do my best with every customer regardless of how my day is going? absolutely. do i ask for a perfect survey? you bet i do. but i also give them an opportunity to speak out so i can amend anything i may have done below their expectations to ensure i get a perfect survey and they get the level of service they desire in their salesperson.

      that being said, i think CSI is a joke. on our surveys, if i don't get perfect 10's, i fail, and i'm stuck with that score for months affecting me, like AZmike's friend. also, who doesn't go into a car dealership expecting the guy from the picture above, just willing, ready, and able to be rude and unprofessional? why should i get tanked on a survey just because someone came in with preconceived notions that, despite my best efforts, i could not overcome their bias? or, the last dealership they went to was a jerk and they expect me to behave like a jerk so they're a jerk to me, then they jerk me over on the survey? (i sorta wanted to put as many "jerks" in there as possible for no apparent reason).

      that's why i think CSI is a joke. i can do my very very best for a customer, but they'll always find SOMETHING wrong.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ryan you couldn't be more accurate. I also work at a dealership, I was in sales for two years and now I am a Service Advisor.

        I agree that the surveys are a joke, my problem is not that they ask people what they thought. I have no problem hearing what I did that can be improved and, in theory, it should give me ammunition to the management about improvements that should be made. The problem is that my brand at least uses a five point scale and don't tell the participants what there internal scale looks like. They consider anything less than excellent as failure. If we got a "good" there is a nasty gram sent along to the customer relations manager. The then would have the sales person call back the customer to find out what we did wrong. Only to here them get agitated for interupting there day because they thought we did a good job. For some folks average is average and good is good. Excellent is unachievable.

        I spent 5 years in the Marine Corps where if you rated a subordinate as excellent or outstanding across the board there is a very good chance that your assessment would be discarded. I would like to see a survey system that at the very least gets people's true thoughts rather than graded on a different scale than what people would hold themselves too.

        Whenever handed a survey for a class to rate the instructor I always threw a few lower marks in there to show that I read the survey. Now I feel bad that I may have cost someone part of their pay.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Here is the thing. The manufacturers have set up those stupid surveys up to money. If you dont get a perfect survey back the dealership has a chance on loosing money. Anyway the surveys are scued. even if you as a sonsumer think that 75 is great it is not good enough. that is why 100% is the only one good enough for the factory. Screwing with people and the surveys that are sent out to you after you bought a car is not cool. If you are having such bad experiences at store I can totaly understand. But I know customers hold surveys for "ransom" and that is also screwed up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That picture is HYSTERICAL. Autoblog you guys should use this pic for any story, even if it has no relevence to the story you are printing, lol
      • 7 Years Ago
      these surveys should be eliminated. I have had two different experiences, both bad.

      the first was from a Cadillac dealer here in the Phoenix area (Lund Cadillac) who really put the pressure on for a good survey. so much pressure, in fact, they would send out a sample survey right before the real one was coming. of course, the sample survey had all the "very satisfied" checkmarks in the left column already marked. when the real survey came, I just stuck the one the dealer sent me in the envelope. it wasn't more than a week before the dealer called me, obviously upset. I did return the tin of Dutch butter cookies they sent me with the bogus survey.

      they're a slimy bunch, always preying on the old folks that come in.

      I remember talking to one of the service writers there confidentially. he said they were expected to write a minimum $800 service ticket every time one of the old folks came in. believe it or not, this dealership even has a private bingo license with the state of Arizona. guess you need to keep the old folks amused while screwing them.

      on the other side of the coin, a lot of people just don't understand the simple questions.

      I sent a new Dodge Dakota pickup to a friend of a friend in Hawaii. the shipping company (Matson) does not allow more than two gallons of fuel in the tank for safety reasons, so we sent a check for $150 to the new owner to cover both the cost of filling the tank, and a car wash once it arrived in Hawaii.

      naturally, the guy who received the survey answered both the "was the vehicle clean", and "was the fuel tank full" with a resounding "no".

      this one bad survey cost my friend who sold the vehicle over $10,000 in bonuses that year, and he sells over 1,000 units per year.

      AZMike
      • 7 Years Ago
      did ya ever think that maybe you got a bad tip or a bad survey because it was you, not that your customer had a bad day before he got there but that your attitude was bad, service was terrible, commitments not met, or in the case of the little pizza boy, that it wasnt delivered when promised or that we already pay a delivery charge.

      If I am having a bad day and I get GOOD service, I'll appreciate it all the more because something FINALLY went right. IF I get bad service, its just another heaping and yeah you will get a bad tip or CSI form.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Billy,
        I have nothing against pizza delivery persons. but you raise an interesting point. Your impression is that I am tipping the pizza guy for how fast he gets the pizza to my house from the store. So,...
        1) I am to tip on something I cant measure. I have no idea if he stopped at his girlfriends on the way or ran 2 lights to get to my house quickly.
        2) Your impression is that I should tip X regardless because he may be overworked and its not his fault.

        I, and most everyone else, tip because of the overall service we specifically receive. that person's manager has the responsibility and opportunity to evaluate overall performance and compensate accordingly.

        And yes, I have waited tables, delivered pizza, and managed employees, as well as been the customer on the receiving end.
        • 7 Years Ago
        America, the land of "its not my fault"

        just ask the lawyers.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Geo.Stewart..that comment about "America, the land of it's not my fault" ..bloody brillianT ..!!! it's so true! probably the best quote on here relating to this article.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually, geo, a lawyer might very well tell you that it IS your fault. I see you like to take out the frustrations you build up on the pizza boy, who I am sure dawdled on purpose, he's raking it in, what does he care about you, right?
      • 7 Years Ago

      Wow. Karesh has finally gained the recognition he wanted. Even Automotive News are quoting his TrueDelta survey now.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Well I'm sure he didn't get a Ph. D. for nothing! I actually noticed when he stopped posting.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Michael Karesh and TrueDelta positions itself as "Reliable Research. Relevant Results." I find that hard to believe when he only has 17,000 vehicles in his panel. Especially when the U.S. market sells 16-17 million units annually and there are over 244 million vehicles in operation.

        It could be argued that his panel participants are far from the mainstream. Whereas legitimate market research companies use R.L. Polk to get their sample, ensuring that the respondents are representative of the automotive buying populace, Karesh relies on folks he trolls from sites like TTAC, Epinions and yes, Autoblog.

        With all due respect, we are hardly typical consumers since most of us have a strong opinion. Sites like Epinions are especially suspect because they tend to get users who bitch and complain the most. Respondents like that skew the data.

        As a result, the validity of the Karesh research should be questioned and the results used only directionally. TrueDelta is neither Reliable nor Relevant.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The local dealer where I have my Colorado serviced used to push the perfect score bit hard. The second time I took the truck in for warranty work about two years later, they changed their policy somewhat and just put a sticker on the receipt that asked to give them a perfect score on the survey and if you didn't plan on it, they'd have a manager come over. Then a few days later I got a call from the dealership and was offered a full detail and $50 gas card if I gave perfect scores. I told her I did not have a perfect experience and would not give perfect scores. For some reason, the survey never even came.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Its one thing for the sales-guy who did everything he should, to ask you for high scores, because his bottom line depends on it. Some of these strong arm techniques would lead me to do roughly two things- walking out the door with a big "eat my ^$$". Next, corporate customer relations gets a letter explaining that this sort of treatment is in-excusable. No one NEEDS whatever gilded turd they are selling, let alone that sort of treatment. You're only in charge as long as you're willing to walk away.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I had the opposite happen to me with Northwest Airlines. After an unpleasant experience with an incredibly rude employee I managed to track down the manager. He practically begged me to fill out a survey form as negatively as I could. It turns out they had already fired the guy once, but the union got him back on the job.

      And still some people say the unions have nothing to do with the domestic makers' woes.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I received a call from a local Nissan dealer inviting me to test drive the Altima. The sales person pretty much begged me to come in and test drive it. He also mentioned that he'll receive $100 if I did. After repeated refusal, he told me he'd split the $100 50/50 if I came in. I own a 05 G35 and not too impressed with their service and now this…not a good why to get customers into their showroom.

      We bought a 07 Hyundai Santa Fe and service was excellent. I so impressed with their service we gave them excellent on the survey and bought them dozen ice tea drinks.
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