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Satisfaction Surveys: How to Get Worthless Results

Customer satisfaction surveys are useful, but you still need to know how to use them. I have often explained what to do. Let me show you today, an example of what not to do. Below, is a real example found in the showroom of one of the world’s top 3 car manufacturers.

Problem n°1: biased answers

The dealer must, as part of his contract with the brand he represents, provide indicators of the quality of his work. Customer satisfaction is one of these indicators. The dealer is penalised if the satisfaction score is not high enough. This is a widespread practice in many networks.

The picture below was taken in a car dealership. Result of the race: the dealer tells you what to answer the satisfaction survey (“give us a score of 9 or 10/10”) and thus takes away all the value of the satisfaction survey. The results are distorted (biased in marketing language). The parent company then analyses the wrong figures and has the illusion that everything is fine.

This is a perfect example of Goodhart’s law in action.

Problem n°2: selected respondents

The purpose of a satisfaction survey is to get an accurate picture of reality. As we’ve seen, it’s already a bad start when we tell the customer what to answer. But it’s messed up when we select the customers to whom we send the questionnaires.

After my last visit to this car showroom, I had a dispute with the manager who wanted to make me pay for a service I hadn’t requested. The tone rose, and I was asked to leave the showroom. I have never received a satisfaction questionnaire. As a result, I couldn’t give a bad grade, and the parent company will not be made aware.

In conclusion

This real-life example shows that a poorly conducted satisfaction survey is worthless. Two major mistakes were made by the car manufacturer in question:

  1. The dealer’s income depends on the satisfaction rate: the results are influenced by the manufacturer.
  2. The car showroom can administer the satisfaction questionnaire itself: the results are faked.



Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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