Customer satisfaction, what does it mean? Well we know what it should mean but with such importance placed on customer satisfaction surveys implemented by car manufacturers and the financial rewards bestowed upon the dealer network for achieving the targets, have they now lost sight of what customer satisfaction really means?
Most car makers will set a benchmark of say, 80% positive reaction in customer satisfaction surveys – covering before, during and after the sales process – in order for the dealer to achieve a financial reward in the form of a bonus. In addition this bonus will rise incrementally from the benchmark so a dealer achieving 100% could be in line for thousands of pounds more from the manufacturers as reward for maximum performance.
We know of all manner of incentives offered by the dealers themselves to their customers. This ranges from boxes of chocolates or bunches of flowers to the rather less subtle “give us a five on the satisfaction survey and we’ll throw in a set of mats”.
In showrooms you may see subliminal messages relating to the customer satisfaction survey designed to make the customer ask questions that enable the salesperson to directly encourage positive responses to the questions in the survey.
Effectively these actions by the dealer, amounting to little more than bribery, are sending the message to their manufacturer masters that all is well in their business where in reality their customer satisfaction survey results are skewed at best.
Once financial incentives are introduced the whole system becomes flawed. As dealers try to game the system in their favour the reality of just how satisfied their customers actually are becomes distorted.
We even know of cases where information on certain customers is either invented or altered. Take for example a manufacturer who stipulates that a qualifying survey must be of a certain size. Dealers and their employees have been known to make up respondents and give telephone numbers of friends and relatives who will be primed for a call from the manufacturer should it come. Others have changed the contact details of customers they know will give them a negative response to the survey so the manufacturer’s agents will be unable to get hold of them and move on the next name on their list.
The whole system of car retailing customer satisfaction surveys appears to be built on sand. How did we get to the situation where something as simple and old fashioned as good customer service has become so complicated? One reason, money.
So can we really believe the dealers or manufacturers when they say they are committed to customer satisfaction? The mantra’s sound impressive when you read the mission statements but when you realize that money changes hands on the strength of survey results then maybe they should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Genuine good service means repeat, incremental business, surely if a car dealership is truly committed to customer service it shouldn’t have to be paid directly when it gets things right.