Retail Front

Satisfied With the Dealership? Heck No, But…


So what do customer-satisfaction surveys accomplish, anyway?

A perplexed couple asked that after their unsatisfying experience at a local car dealership. They’ve done business there before, so they should have received the red-carpet treatment. Instead, they angrily saw red.

As editor of Ward’s Dealer Business magazine, I hear stories of great customer treatment at superior stores. I also hear the occasional dealership horror stories.

This couple’s experience wasn’t frightful. No one horrid incident occurred. Rather, just a bunch of annoyances that shouldn’t happen to anyone, let alone repeat customers.

Yet afterwards, an employee beseeched them to tell the manufacturer how delighted they were with their dealership experience.

It was bad from the start. A staffer whom they dealt with before told them on the phone to come in on a particular morning. But he was missing in action when they got there.

A colleague paged him on the public address system. Twenty minutes later, the co-worker returned and said, “He didn’t respond to the page, so we’ll call him on his cell phone.”

Mobile phones as a last resort in this modern age of communications, and after a 20-minute delay? Well, it could have been worse. At least they didn’t send him a telegram.

He never showed up. A young salesman pinch hit. He eagerly tried to sell stuff the couple decidedly wasn’t interested in.

“My husband said he wanted a manual transmission; the salesman kept trying to get him to drive an automatic,” the woman said. “He also kept insisting we take a test drive, even though we were quite familiar with the car we were buying, because we’ve owned two of them.”

Paperwork confusion ensued in the finance and insurance office where a staffer got suspicious. It is admirable for a dealership to guard against identity theft. It also is the law under the Federal Trade Commission’s Red-Flags Regulations that took effect this year.

But the F&I person acted leery because the married couple had different last names. That’s hardly rare these days. It isn’t an automatic reason to hoist a red flag. And certainly not with customers of record.

More aggravations occurred. Again, nothing singularly outlandish. Just one hassle after another, from staffer to staffer, department to department.

To top it off, a few weeks after buying their new vehicle, the couple got a letter from the dealership urging them to come on down to buy a car.

Customer-relationship management folks say it is better to send nothing than to dispatch buying exhortations to people who just bought from you. It looks dumb and impersonal, no matter how much the CRM software personalizes the correspondence.

The couple also got something else in the mail: A customer-satisfaction survey from the manufacturer asking how the dealership did.

They were expecting that. After all, their salesman had told them his earnings would suffer if they gave him anything but high marks on the impending questionnaire.

Survey in hand, the couple disagreed over what to say on it. The husband thought they should fill it out candidly without exacting retribution. How else would the dealership know it has operational issues that need fixing?

But the wife felt that giving low marks, however deserved, would put all the blame on the one salesman when, in fact, co-workers shared the guilt.

And although they thought his groveling for high scores was off-putting, it worked. They went ahead and scored the store well.

They won’t be back. Yet, based on the completed survey they sent back, the dealership and the manufacturer can chalk them up as two more happy customers.

What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.


Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
Blog Archive
Follow Us

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×