Thursday, November 16, 2006

New plan for automaker profitability: eliminate dealer satisfaction surveys

Is there an aspect of marketing more perverse than the automotive dealer satisfaction survey? If so, let me know about it.

After having a dealer service your car, they inform you that if you're surveyed later, any rating lower other than a "5" -- a perfect score -- is a failure. And you are offered a free oil change to give them a 5. If what the dealer tells you is in fact true, than the dealer's scores are not a diagnostic tool for the manufacturer to use in improving dealer service; they're simply a blunt cudgel to be used as punishment. (Another instance of the rampant trend in "zero tolerance" policies.)

The upshot: the data is utterly fallacious, and isn't being used to discover and report on actual drivers of satisfaction for the purposes of performance improvement.

What do GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and so on pay for this farce every year? There must be a better way to spend that money in order to drive customer satisfaction. How about a real diagnosis of satisfaction drivers -- and a real program to help and incent dealers to deliver on them?

Who has the courage to break from the pack?