Tales from the Service Desk: Survey Says


Phoutthavong SOUVANNACHAK/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve ever had your car serviced at a dealership, you’ve probably received a survey about the experience, either via snail mail or phone. Or perhaps online. This is especially likely if the work was done under warranty.

You’ve probably thrown out/ignored this survey. What you probably don’t know is that doing so may have cost your service advisor money and/or got him in hot water with the boss.

I certainly learned that one the hard way during my time as a service writer.

To be clear, the survey process varies from dealer to dealer, and I assume it’s somewhat dependent on the OEM(s) a dealership represents. It also probably has changed since my time in the trenches, so keep that in mind.

I first encountered surveys during my time as an express-lube service writer at a brand that rhymes with Roymota. I don’t recall the surveys there directly affecting my compensation – we were salaried with spiffs for certain upsells – but one could definitely get chewed out if you had a pattern of bad surveys, or even just one truly bad one. At the very least, you might get called in to explain why customer X gave you bad marks.

I don’t recall anyone being fired over bad surveys – management seemed to think any issues that arose were correctable and seemed to understand that sometimes a customer’s complaint wasn’t the advisor’s fault.

Indeed, one of the funnier surveys I ever saw came from a customer complaining about curse words emanating from the main service office, which was located next to the waiting area, within earshot of customers’ children. Turns out it was the big boss – the man who roamed among the owner’s several stores and was feared among employees in the same way that Darth Vader made stormtroopers cower – who was cussing up a storm. With the office door open.

At least one later stop in my career took surveys a bit more seriously, though at this store, which repped several GM brands (including one that died during the Great Recession/bailout fiasco), the surveys were only necessary if a customer’s car was in for warranty work. I don’t recall if the survey numbers were tied to my pay, but I do know the manager got mad if we got low numbers. He even got upset about low participation – the brass wanted GM to know we did quality work.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t diligent about getting my customers to do these surveys. Unlike the other places I’d worked, it fell on us to make the phone calls encouraging customers to partake. I hated doing these calls – partly because I didn’t like cold-calling customers who’d thought they were done with us, and partly because sometimes I got lazy/distracted by the Internet. Every job offers up some task you’d rather not do, no matter how diligently you do the rest of your tasks, and for some reason, the survey calls were that task for me.

So yeah, I didn’t do that part of my job, or at least not well. That’s on me, and I take full blame. But it was also frustrating that even when I deigned to pick up the phone on a regular basis, customers often didn’t fill out the surveys. They couldn’t be arsed to do so. Earning me an ass-chewing even when I had done what the boss asked. After all, we can only call so many times before it’s considered spamming.

This isn’t my way of working out deep-seated issues with my old boss, I swear. No, it’s a reminder that while you might find these surveys easy to ignore – you’re a busy person, after all, and even if you aren’t, you don’t really want to spend five minutes saying Joe Smith was “very good” or “satisfactory” at his job – they do have a tangible effect on the people who managed the servicing of your vehicle.

So you might want to fill yours out after your next oil change. Just remember not to ding the guy in the service drive because his boss was dropping F-bombs near the waiting room.

And if the coffee’s cold – that’s probably reception’s fault.

[Image: Phoutthavong SOUVANNACHAK/Shutterstock.com]

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