Surveys and Car Dealers

I don’t know about you, but I hate the Car Dealer Surveys.

Some months ago, my wife and I bought a new car: a Toyota Prius. The car dealer didn’t know much about the car. He told us that all the models came with a rear camera (wrong) and he even had difficulty starting the car (you just need to push a button instead of turning a key). He was a nice guy and we loved the car so we bought it anyway.

Since we had the kids with us and the purchase of a car can even dent the patience of the most dedicated Zen Monk, we left the dealership asking our sales person to prepare the paperwork for us so that we could come a couple of days later and just sign it in.

Of course, a couple of days later we showed up just to find out that the paperwork wasn’t done (he hadn’t even started it). We waited patiently (again with the kids bored and complaining) and after two more hours we’ve got the car. All in all, a normal car buying experience.

But now, here it’s the kick: after all was done and we sat on the car ready to leave, the smiley car dealer comes by with a Toyota survey and ask us to fill it in saying “Anything less than 5 stars is unacceptable”. Five starts means “exceeding expectations”.

Now, I am not really picky, I was ready to score as average since the service was average (actually it was probably below average) but come on! Exceeding expectations? I don’t think so (and really I don’t have very high expectations about car dealers).

So I’ve just ignored the survey (he was a nice guy after all and I didn’t want to damage his scoring) but I kept on wondering what’s the meaning of these surveys anyway?

Does really Toyota (or any other car manufacturer for that matter, since this happened to me also at Honda) think that all their dealers exceed customers expectations? What’s the game here?

I mention this anecdote because we don’t want to repeat this mistake in our restaurant business. If you ever ask your clients for feedback, ask for (and expect) genuine feedback and don’t get mad or defensive if the feedback that you get is less than optimum.

The purpose of feedback is to gather realistic information about your business so that you can improve it. By conditioning your audience about what to write in the feedback, you lose its purpose.

Ask sincerely and expect candid answers. This is the only way for you to get better and to make your place among the best in the industry.

If you only want to hear positive things, then don’t bother with a survey, have your friends talk nicely to you about your place. It won’t help you improve your business, but it will make you feel good and/or bust your self-esteem.

However, if you are serious about improving and getting better at what you are doing, then you need to confront the reality and accept the criticisms. Analyze and address all the critics. Even if they are due to a human error or a mistake, you can always thank the person giving you the feedback and either compensate them (if appropriate) or assure them that the problem or issue won’t happen again.

Also, try to see if you can find patterns in the comments. If so, this is an area that you need to focus on and improve. Again, thank the people who gave you the honest feedback, and put together an improvement plan (involve your employees in its implementation).

At the end, using feedback to improve your business is the best way to get ahead of your competitors. Unfortunately in this industry, owners often disregard honest criticism and always try to justify their actions, even if they or some of their employees were responsible for whatever wrong it happened (we are all humans, we all make mistakes from time to time) instead of using this feedback as a way to improve their processes and their employees.

And since we are talking about feedback, please feel free to send me any feedback regarding these blogs. Do you find them useful? Do you think that they are too obvious or a waste of your time? Just let me know. I won’t get mad. I promise

Thank you for reading,
Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

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