The things dealers do to get top scores
Monday, August 27th, 2007
Last May TrueDelta conducted a special survey, asking people what, if anything, car dealers did to influence their responses on manufacturers’ sales experience surveys. Were tactics like asking for top scores, giving gifts in exchange for filling out the survey at the dealer, and so forth as widespread as anecdotal evidence suggested?
Well, the results can now be viewed here. The most aggressive tactics turned out to be rare, but others were widespread. Many car buyers resent the pressure put on them to provide less than truthful responses. Others figure that the survey doesn’t matter to them personally, but it matters a lot to the dealer, so why not give them the scores they need to get paid?
Auto industry trade magazine Automotive News covered the results in today’s issue (sorry, subscription required to view the article). They asked a few manufacturers for a response. Hyundai provided a typical response: “We try not to influence the outcome of the survey. This has been clearly communicated to all our dealers on a regular basis.” Yes, and I clearly communicate to my kids on a regular basis that they should keep their rooms clean.
One manufacturer comment deserves a response. BMW spokesman Jan Ehlen responded that the number of BMW buyers included in the poll was too small to be meaningful. While it is true that only 46 BMW owners responded, the differences noted were so large–about 20 percentage points–that these particular results are conclusive even with the small sample size. When 46 people respond, and not a single one gave their BMW dealer even average marks, much less below average marks, it’s saying something.
Dealers can’t really be faulted for these practices. In many cases, they and they salespeople only earn large bonuses if they receive perfect scores on these surveys. This is an unrealistic expectation. If people need to cheat a system to earn enough to eat, they’re going to cheat it.