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GM: You’re Doing Surveys Wrong

After driving my car a decade, I made the decision to go big or go home. Influenced by my Grandfather’s love of his Cadillac and remembering the weekend rides where he took us out… I bought my first Cadillac earlier in the year. The dealership I purchased from is amazing… down to Earth folks from the receptionist, to the salesperson, to the service people. Every time I make an appointment for an oil change (off my iPhone App… how cool is that?!), I have a great experience.

And then it happens.



I’m asked, chided, almost begged to fill out any surveys from General Motors with Completely Satisfied marks. It’s made clear to me that I can’t enter a single grade without anything but Completely Satisfied. It’s made clear to me that there are terrible repercussions for the staff if that doesn’t happen.

It makes me think that GM has taken what used to be a great tool to gauge their client feedback and tracking their satisfaction and turned it into a weapon that their dealers and employees are petrified of. That the dealership goes through the trouble of printing and stapling this cover letter to every service statement, and spending a few times explaining it, is really unfortunate. I’m not even mentioning the dealership in this blog post since I don’t want them to get in trouble for it.

Any company that captures customer intelligence understands that there’s both a margin of error with customer feedback and human error is imminent when it comes to customer service. In other words, no matter how well your team performs, some people are just having a bad day or are jerks and they won’t give you a perfect score. At other times, your service team may make a mistake… but it’s how they recover from it that matters, not whether or not they did a perfect job. In other words, throw out the top and bottom 5% and keep the rest for a true measurement of how you’re doing. Consumers don’t believe any company provides a perfect 5-star experience, so stop demanding it.

I’m confident that the motivation for gathering of this customer satisfaction data is for all the good reasons. But the execution appears to be the issue. Companies shouldn’t be afraid of making a mistake once in a while, or being on the bad end of the wrath of a cranky consumer.

The irony, of course, is that outside of this survey, I’m completely satisfied with my dealer.

About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog. Doug is the CMO of CircuPress and CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. Their clients include Angie's List, GoDaddy, Mindjet and many more. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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  1. From first hand knowledge, Customer Service Comments, VOC- Voice of the Customer etc., can be brutal for a store manager and his staff. While you can try to do your best to train your staff to exceed every customers expectations, one customer with an axe to grind for any reason, can have devastating bottom line effects on your overall weekly or monthly score. Sometimes you can exceed every metric required but if the hot button is customer service, all of that can be swept aside.

  2. GM not only Requires that in Service, But for every New vehicle that is Sold these customers may get a survey from GM. There again if a customer does not fill it out Completely Satisfied. It is considered a Fail for the Saleman that has a Detrement to the income they make over the Year. I know since I sell GM Vehicles both New and Used.

  3. auto dealers are using their employees as a tool to increase their false sense of quality in their product. truth is they produce crap cars now a days. I have been in this business for over 40 years and seen the quality decline across the board. it is a joke to anyone who plans to enter it in the future. my best advice, stay away there is no future here…..

  4. Thank you , sir. Coming from a service manager of a Toyota (and other important and domestic dealers in my career), they are all the same. If only THE CONSUMERS would make their voices heard, not in frustration at dealership employees but perhaps in understanding where this is all sourcing from, as you did. The true indicator of satisfaction should be retention alone! Are the customers coming back after they have any kind of experience with you. That should shine a light on who is struggling and who gives “truly exceptional” service. – That is Toyota’s highest rated score on their survey. Cheri.

    • Absolutely Cheri… could not agree more. I think it comes down to three distinct questions:

      1. Will your next automobile will be a [brand]?
      2. Will you buy your next car from us?
      3. Will you have your car serviced by us?

      Each one of these pinpoints the the dealer’s concerns… brand, sales and service. An answer of no to any of them can lead to some incredible information to help improve the dealership.

      Thanks for your input!

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