Threatening Customers–A Poor Tactic to Raise Customer Satisfaction
I took my car in for a 20k service visit last week. And just as winter comes after fall, a week after my service appointment, The Letter appeared in my mailbox. You know what letter I mean–all dealerships use them now to cajole, if not threaten, customers into giving them high marks for satisfaction. “Thank you for choosing <Dealer Name> for your recent warranty repair. We will continue to be the answer to all your parts, sales and service needs.” So far so good, though I’m smarting a bit at the term ‘warranty repair.’ If the repairs were under warranty, why did it cost me $1200? But I digress.
“You may be getting a survey from the <brand> manufacturer. They will be asking you if you are completely satisfied with the warranty repairs and service on your car. If you are completely satisfied, please indicate so. If not, please contact me so I can immediately look into the matter… Remember, anything less than an outstanding (bold theirs, not mine) score on the survey is considered a failure on our part.”
Boy, oh boy. Where do I begin in the list of ‘worst practices’ I see developing as companies use gorilla tactics to gather high satisfaction marks?
- What does outstanding mean? I think for a survey to be actionable, the company and the customer need to agree on the definitions. No one asked me what I consider an ‘outstanding’ experience. Caviar and a martini while I wait? Wash my car and fill the gas tank before returning it? Some companies publish a ‘customer bill of rights’ or something similar that defines what the ultimate experience should be. I could use one here.
- Plausible deniability. You can just hear the conversation from the dealer’s service manager when corporate sends them their satisfaction scores. “I told the customers in my letter that they had to call me if they didn’t think we were outstanding! How can I possibly fix a problem I don’t know about? Let’s ignore our bad sat scores–it is the customer’s fault for not speaking up.” Clearly this company doesn’t want real feedback from customers, just a good score.
- Threats lead to useless survey results. At the end of the day, any company threatening customers to give high sat ratings is shooting themselves in the foot. When repeat business dies, they may have no idea why since their sat results are artificially high. If the only reason you are collecting satisfaction scores is to make corporate happy, you should just stop.
- Anything less than outstanding is a failure. Failure to whom? Frankly, forget outstanding, I’d settle for merely competent in most of my customer service interactions. ‘Oustanding’ would be if I never had to bring the car in for service–ever! Top box scores look at the top 2 or 3 ratings on a 5 or 10 point scale–not just the #1 choice. Human nature (and many other factors) influence how we score (look at the comments on my blog post on cultural differences), so expecting everyone to agree to give you the highest rating is unrealistic.
Bottom line, any company that tells its customers how to fill out their satisfaction survey must have a satisfaction problem. I was pleased with my service experience….up until I received this letter.
Do you have a satisfaction story to share? Please add a comment or shoot me an email. And as always, thanks for reading!