The Weirdest Way That Dealers Ruin The Customer Service Experience

November 12, 2014

The internet has done some great things. It's allowed us to shop for riding lawnmowers in our underwear. It's changed the way we enjoy television by encouraging us to binge-watch our favorite shows. And where would cupcakes, bacon, pizza, or cats be without internet memes to fuel their popularity?

But there is a dark side to the internet. Not the Silk Road side, the side with hackers and ne'er-do-wells, but a quieter, more insidious side: a side filled with floods of email, YouTube holes, bottomless Facebook news feeds, and growing FOMO.

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In that universe, the darkest force of all is the endless quest for customer feedback. Businesses are so desperate for high scores from sites like Yelp that they've lost track of the people who supply those ratings: their customers. Some businesses have even threatened to refuse service -- or worse -- to anyone posting a negative review. Which seems like a very strange way to say, "The customer is always right!"

The situation can be especially grim when it comes to car dealers. Manufacturers and dealerships place a great deal of importance on consumer satisfaction surveys carried out by J.D. Power, Pied Piper, and other marketing firms. They badger customers for feedback -- allegedly so they can improve their services, but you can't help feeling they'd be satisfied if you just gave them a high score.


Consider the experience of Dave Brock, who recently took his car to a dealership for service. As Brock explains, the process of setting up and receiving service was great. The dealership was attentive, communicative, and respectful of Brock's  time. The company made entire experience as easy as possible.

Before Brock had gotten back to his office, though, he'd received an email from the dealership, asking for feedback and ratings. In the following days, he received three more emails and a phone call, all from the dealership. Though he hadn't yet been contacted by the manufacturer, he expected to soon -- likely as often as the dealer.

Brock was not amused: "I was intending on giving them a very high rating, but was a little annoyed about being told what my experience was". We've felt that pain.


Obviously, different consumers respond to surveys in different ways. Some are happy to respond quickly and give their opinions. Some, like Brock, take offense and see the process as intrusive. 

From where we sit, dealerships and manufacturers need to -- in fact, are obligated to -- solicit feedback from consumers. The trick is striking a delicate balance and asking for feedback without turning off consumers like Brock.

Have you experienced anything like Brock -- not just being badgered for feedback, but specifically, for ratings? Did it annoy you? How did you react? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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