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How to Avoid Survey Backfire

-by Sally Whitesell for AutoSuccess Magazine

Customer satisfaction surveys have trained us as consumers to scrutinize every aspect of our customer service experience. You can’t make a purchase without someone asking you to fill out a survey. I could spend 2 minutes in a store and feel perfectly satisfied because my visit was quick and efficient. Once I receive a survey, I’m asked to rate my satisfaction in areas I didn’t even consider before.

Here’s where the backfire starts. For example:

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?
“Well I did have to check a few aisles, so not really.”

Were you welcomed when you entered?
“I don’t remember. I was in a hurry so probably not.”

Do you feel the products purchased are a good value?
“They weren’t on sale this week, so…”

Are you starting to get the picture? Even though I thought I left the store perfectly satisfied, after reading the questions, I’m no longer sure! This survey just educated me to be aware of a business’s shortcomings. I understand that the goal of surveys is to make sure customers are completely satisfied, but the process can backfire. We could be sabotaging ourselves by focusing on all of the tiny details instead of the main point, which is: “will they come back?”

Some manufacturer’s surveys ask if the waiting area had current reading materials. Every store should offer this amenity, but do you think clients pay careful attention to the date on the magazine cover? Twenty years ago, the answer would be “yes,” but today we bring our own “reading materials” with our laptops and phones. Survey scores can take a significant hit with questions like this, because if clients aren’t sure, they often pick the middle box or leave the question blank.

So how do we avoid this backfire? We have to combat this new customer awareness by making your clients MORE aware of what you DO offer. This can start when they set their appointment. Many of the questions on surveys are about convenience, so let’s TELL our clients how convenient we really are. Here are a few examples of how changing our messages can make a huge difference in your clients’ perspectives.


Customer: I would like to make an appointment for service.

Advisor/BDC: No problem, when would you like to come in?

Customer: How about tomorrow morning?

Customer: I am so sorry, but I can’t get you in until Friday at the earliest.

There is nothing worse than starting the service experience by telling the customer what we can’t do and with an apology. This scenario does not make setting an appointment seem easy for the customer, and I bet it happens in your store regularly. Now let’s look at the right way to communicate the same information, yet make it easier for the customer to make an appointment that is convenient for them.

Customer: I would like to make an appointment for service.

Advisor/BDC: Sure, my pleasure! For your convenience, we could get you in as soon as 7:10 in the morning on Friday or a little later in the day at 12:45. Which of these times will be more convenient for you?

With this conversation, no apology is necessary, and we just made it convenient for the customer to schedule service by giving two options. The great thing about this method, is that if the times don’t work for the customer, they will now tell you what times will work, knowing it is going to be Friday or later. We just “conveniently” told them how far out we’re booked.

This should be the easiest question to get the “Yes” on. Unfortunately, many advisors skip offering transportation because the client is waiting. In truth, the client may be waiting because they didn’t know they had a choice. A simple way to ace this question is to simply change “Will you be waiting with us?” to: “Will you be taking advantage of our free shuttle service, loaner cars, or rental car discounts?” This should be asked when they are scheduling service and during the write-up. Another bonus is that there will be fewer clients in your waiting room judging the dates on your magazine selection. Which brings me to our final survey question.    

It is time for a little show and tell. Once your advisors finish the write up, they should be escorting every guest to the waiting area and pointing out your amenities. It is important to make sure your guests are comfortable while waiting. Keep in mind that comfortable clients will be much more likely to approve additional services! The following word track will insure your clients are completely aware of all of the amenities you offered during their service and will come to their mind once they get the survey.

“Let me show you our comfortable waiting area and all of our amenities. We have complimentary snacks, coffee and water and a few vending machines with even more choices. We also have free WiFi and a quiet place to plug in and set up your computer. There’s a TV, a playroom for the kids and the restrooms are right around the corner.” Please let me know if you need anything else.”

There are many more ways to change your wording and habits to make a big impact. Review your survey with your team and have a brainstorming session. Write word tracks to “tell” your clients how great their service experience is. Practicing these more positive and productive word tracks will not only affect your scores, but it will also affect your team!

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