PAT LIND SUGGESTS REVAMPING CUSTOMER satisfaction surveys. Critics claim they're misleading.

Lind cites the woes of a GM dealer who said here in January that most of his customers give his dealership a “very satisfied score,” but GM nevertheless wants more than that. The automaker wants “completely satisfied” scoring.

The GM dealer says the automaker unfairly claims he has a customer satisfaction problem. Yet his customers tell him they consider “very satisfied” an excellent score.

Lind, general manager of Carousel Motors in Iowa City, IA (selling Lincoln Mercury, Mazda, VW and Audi) tells me, “As a VW/Audi dealership, we have been involved for many years with the survey situation your GM friends are experiencing.

“First, there is a huge difference between ‘completely satisfied’ and ‘very satisfied.’ Your completely satisfied customers are committed, loyal and dedicated advocates for your store. The very satisfied people are not.

“The rub comes when you factor in human nature. Some people would never say they were completely satisfied even if you gave them the car and a blank check for the service department. Perfect is not in their realm of possibilities.

“A better way to score these surveys is numerical. A simple 1-5 or 1-10 removes most people's mental blocks and gets more accurate responses.”

A GMC dealer, with above-average CSI ratings both regionally and nationally, sympathizes with the GM dealer bemused by the scoring method.

The GMC dealer says, “We have been in business for 57 years and a new-vehicle dealer for 39. ‘Very satisfied’ in today's world is about all you can get. ‘Completely satisfied’ almost takes on a spiritual connotation. We are a customer-driven company, and try very hard to satisfy our customers.”

Another reader says he “felt compelled” to respond to the GM dealer's predicament.

He says, “It seems to me that someone just doesn't understand. The statement that ‘customer satisfaction is not the problem, it's the scoring,’ doesn't hold up against the prior statement that his top-box score is only 30% compared to 60% in the region. Other dealers are getting it done with the same scoring system.

“Suggestion: Show your employees the scores for the region and ask for their input. If you have any kind of a team, let them pick up the ball. They'll take it a lot farther than you'll ever be capable of.”

Meanwhile, Karen Francis calls for revising CSI surveys to include separate feedback from Internet car buyers.

“We'll soon have to break out CSI by online and offline customers to see what we need to do to enhance online customers' satisfaction scores,” says Francis, CEO of Ford's ConsumerConnect.e-commerce initiative.

Blue Oval mythology?

Ford Motor Co. spokeswoman Susan Krusel takes exception to some comments — she calls them “myths” — in a November story headlined, “Premier Auto Group and Blue Oval are programs aimed at future success, but one has many more critics than the other.”

She counts off those so-called Blue Oval myths and responds as follows:

“Myth #1: Blue Oval Certified sets up a system of two-tier pricing for dealers.”

Krusel says: Ford's pricing action (1% of the base vehicle MSRP) applies to all dealers. Separately, Blue Oval Certified is a promotion/incentive program equally available to all dealers, and the benefits are distributed on a proportionally equal basis. As such, Blue Oval Certified complies with federal and state pricing laws.

“Myth #2: Ford plans to unilaterally change certification criteria to exclude dealers.”

Krusel says: Ford works together with its National Dealer Council and Blue Oval Certified Advisory Committee on all proposed changes to the program. Two-thirds of the National Dealer Council must approve any changes to Blue Oval Certified.

“Myth #3: Missing one criterion can cost a dealer its certification.”

Krusel says: The certification process is not intended to eliminate dealers, and missing one criterion will not cost a dealer certification. Dealers need to pass only 70-80% of the criteria to be Blue Oval Certified. More than 90% of Ford dealers are currently certified.

“Ford has a fantastic dealer network and the results of the Blue Oval Certified program have indicated an increase in customer satisfaction,” says Krusel.

For more on Ford and its touchy relations with dealers, see this issue's cover story starting on page 12.

Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business. His e-mail address is: