Make Sure Your Customers Complain

in May 24, 2019

An interesting title for a blog, I know. But an article on CustomerThink got me thinking, as it warns businesses they should be concerned if customers are NOT complaining.

The reasoning behind this is that if customers aren’t complaining, businesses assume everyone is happy when, in fact, that’s usually not the case. The theory the author posits is that customers could have simply given up on the business and may already be in the process of finding an alternative solution. In addition, not receiving complaints stifles a business’s ability to improve its operations and customer’s needs.

In the automotive industry, many dealerships rely on manufacturer survey results as the prime indicator as to how their dealership is performing in the area of customer experience. But all too often the survey results are misleading and not every customer completes the survey. Those who do tend to either rate the experience as perfect, or horrible. And, while manufacturers frown upon – and often prohibit – dealerships from “coaching” customers about the survey, that is frequently exactly what happens.

As bonuses and paychecks tend to be tied to these survey results, it becomes too important for salespeople not to discuss the survey with the customer in some way. There are dealerships who go as far as actually putting a filled out perfect survey on every salesperson’s desk, or in the finance offices, which the customers can see while waiting. Even if the salesperson doesn’t directly talk about the survey, the customers are influenced by what they see and so understand how the dealership would like them to respond when they receive the survey. If the experience was mostly positive for the consumer, many times they’ll acquiesce and reward the dealership with that perfect survey, even if the experience was in fact less than perfect and things need correcting.

The flip side of the coin is the upset customer. Those customers fill out the survey sometimes as an act of revenge. Of course, there are also times when customers are simply being honest and truly want to share their negative experience with the dealership, hoping that someone will care and the dealership will change.

With CSI surveys filled out this way, dealerships that rely on these manufacturer survey results to judge if they are doing a good job are seeing a picture that is far from accurate. As a result, mistakes, that could easily be rectified, are not being addressed as many customers choose to remain silent and give a perfect score.

Most dealers are looking at extremes – perfection (that may or may not have been perfect) and customer dissatisfaction. The truth is that most experiences don’t fall into these extreme categories, but rather someplace in the middle. Customer satisfaction isn’t black and white… it’s mostly gray. Without accurate feedback, dealerships will never be able to improve their experience. By not evolving or fixing problems, customers simply go away and the dealer never knows why.

If you want an accurate picture of how you are doing consider starting your own in-house feedback program through surveys sent from your dealership. These surveys can be of varying lengths – from a few simple questions to more intricate ones. They can be easily distributed via e-mail using transactional data in your CRM.

You can determine the ideal length by completion percentages – if the percentage is low, decrease the number of questions, or consider incentivizing completion through a drawing for services or a gift card.

The bottom line is that dealerships need to receive regular and honest customer feedback on their operations and customer experience across all touchpoints, in all departments. This feedback can provide you with an accurate picture of how your customers felt about their experience and give actionable data to make any needed changes.

These surveys can also provide information on employee performance when it comes to customer interactions, allowing you to identify employees who are engaged and customer-centric, along with those that are underperforming in areas.

In the end, customer feedback is essential to your dealership’s growth and survival. As the article states, “…when everything is going fine, something is not right.” Don’t get lulled into complacency with the illusion that everything is fine by relying solely on manufacturer surveys. If you do, you may well discover that everything isn’t fine – and by then, it may be too late.

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