‘Customer Satisfaction Surveys Are Dead’

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By Ted Ings, Executive Director

The District Manager has just left the GM’s office.

He calls a meeting for his management team and gives them the breaking news: “Customer Satisfaction Surveys are dead!” The OEM has decided to stop using customer surveys as the top metric of a dealership’s success. Everyone is high-fiving and celebrating, ecstatic at the news. 

It was the best dream you’ve ever had about work. 

Unfortunately, CSI surveys don’t seem to be going the way of the dodo bird anytime soon. The stats bring into question their validity, however. Consider this:

•    The response rate for customer satisfaction surveys is commonly between 2 and 12 percent. 

•    Nine percent of dissatisfied customers won’t complain regardless of how unhappy they are. 

•    For every complaint you receive, there are 26 other customers who are similarly unhappy.

•    91 percent of dissatisfied customers will instead find another service provider for their next visit. 

•    Unhappy customers tell 16 people of their bad experience. 

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•    Happy customers, on the other hand, tell just nine people about how great their experience was.

From these statistics, we can deduce two things. First, dissatisfied customers seldom tell YOU that they are unhappy, even in a CSI survey. Second, satisfied clients respond even less frequently. 


Customer satisfaction surveys don’t tell the whole story. An extremely high percentage of surveys that are sent out are never returned – emailed surveys are only marginally better than paper surveys. With such a small segment of surveys that are actually received, it’s just not an accurate representation of a dealership’s success rate. 

Until there is a different metric to replace CSI surveys, it’s necessary to use their data for at least some sort of reflection on the dealership’s performance. 

What Should You Do About Surveys?

Until the Customer Satisfaction Survey has been declared dead, you’ll need to make the best of the situation.


Remind each customer that they may be receiving a survey and that their response is important to helping you provide the best dealership experience. That goes for OEMs and dealers alike. And when a customer responds to a survey, thank them! A quick phone call or email to acknowledge their survey response goes a long way to ensuring future surveys are returned. 

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