When Chris and I bought my very first new car in 2003, we started out with a delightful salesman.
He was a young Nigerian guy, and he was kind, helpful, and not at all pushy. We’d talked trades, we’d picked out the one we wanted (a beautiful sage green Honda Civic), and right as we were about to go inside to talk numbers, it was apparently time for our salesman to knock off for the day.
So he traded us over to this nasty, creepy old dude that was missing almost all of his teeth, and the two he had left were crusty and brown with tobacco stains.
He smiled at me with that sneer that makes you want sanitize your entire body and then immediately call the cops.
But we stuck it out. I negotiated hard for my car, got a good deal, and signed the papers.
At the end of the visit, he started the spiel.
“Now. You’re going to get a call from our dealership asking you to take a survey about me. I want you to answer “excellent” to all of the questions, okay?”
Clearly, he heard the LIE in my voice, so he decided to role play.
“I’m going to pretend to be the surveyor and ask you the questions exactly like they’re going to ask, and you answer. Okay?”
And that greasy man made me sit there and pretend to give him a perfect survey. THREE TIMES.
A couple of days later, they called.
I gave him a nicer review than he deserved, and then they asked me if I had any comments.
“Yes. Do you realize that he bullies his customers into giving him nice reviews?”
I proceeded to tell them about my experience.
And they were duly horrified, and a little embarrassed.
A few years later, we bought another Civic from that dealership. Greaseball was gone, and our new salesman did not hound us about our upcoming survey. I felt as if I had cleaned the place up with my survey.
I was proud that the world was a nicer place, all because of me.
Until we bought Flexi the Space Toaster.
The dealership was out of state, but our experience was delightful. I did all of my hard negotiating over the phone and email, and was very pleased at the price and the amount I was receiving for my trade. I’d researched Flexes for five weeks, and I knew that I was getting the best deal out there.
We arrived at the dealership, and they didn’t try to negotiate a single dollar, even though they hadn’t seen the encrusted bits of Chick-Fil-A and other Children’s Love Marks in my trade until we arrived. Our salesman was wonderful, the dealership was great – everything was perfect.
Until it was time to talk surveys.
And our salesman hounded us with the fervor of five Greaseballs.
Then he hounded us again.
Then, “Some people get confused, so I’m going to pull out a copy of the survey to show you. See – ‘completely satisfied’ is not the best response you can give – ‘perfectly satisfied’ is. If you don’t give me ‘perfectly satisfied’, then they will dock my pay.
(He looks sadly at the photo of his seven year old daughter.)
I promise to give you a perfect review – just give us the keys already!!
A couple days after our purchase, he called to follow up. And to remind me of his intense desire to receive “perfectly satisfied”.
A few days after that, because I had not filled out the survey yet (I was on VACATION), he called back to check on my perfect satisfaction, and by the way, have you received the survey?
I was highly annoyed, but I did like my salesman (before all of the survey stuff started, anyway), and I didn’t want him to get in trouble with the dealership or for his pay to get docked, so I did indeed give him “perfectly satisfied”.
As soon as I hit “send” on the survey email, he called to thank me for being perfectly satisfied.
The dealership emailed me, letting me know that I would also be receiving a survey from Ford, and to please rate their dealership as high as possible, and to keep in mind that “your survey answers will be grading your Sales Associate, and it is a direct reflection on him.”
So clearly, they are not only aware that their salesmen use guilt techniques to get good survey answers, but they model it as well.
Then two days later, they sent me a second email, asking me again to please give them great ratings.
And something inside my nice, southern, unconfrontational self snapped.
So I responded.
I was very happy with my purchase, felt like I got a wonderfully fantastic deal on my car, was very happy with the way that my salesman was not pushy at all and willing to do all of the negotiating via the internet. My deal was completed by the time I arrived, and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of my buying experience.
I would absolutely give the best review on both the dealership and my salesman for everything you have done. And I still will. However, I feel like I have been constantly hounded, guilted, and nearly even bullied into ensuring my perfect review by your dealership. This in and of itself is the biggest complaint that I have with your dealership. Surveys are meant to collect honest opinions from consumers, not to create an uncomfortable, awkward situations between the seller and the buyer.
I highly recommend that your dealership (and your salesmen) simply act confident in the great service you provide, rather than pushing, guilting, and following up with your customers to ensure that they give good reviews. Because your service is absolutely perfect, except for your tactics in making sure you get good reviews, which does the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
Okay. I was still pretty nice. But I felt like I made my point – quit bullying me and leave me alone.
I hit send, and in less than five minutes, my cell phone rang – from the dealership.
I stared at it with incredulous indignation.
WHAT PART OF LEAVE ME ALONE DIDN’T YOU UNDERSTAND??
I didn’t answer.
My salesman left me a message, making sure, yet again, that I was “perfectly satisfied”.
I began to stab my left eyeball out with my pen.
Two days later, I got another email from the dealership.
Not a response, apologizing for their guilting.
Not at all.
This email was from someone whom I had never met or heard of, and it said…
Once again, I would like to thank you for purchasing your vehicle from us here. All of us really appreciate your business, and we hope that we exceeded your expectations.
As I may have mentioned, it makes me very proud to be a member of the sales team. Our business model is designed to eliminate much of the hassle traditionally associated with car sales. Hopefully, I have lived up to my promise which was to deliver you with a simple, honest, and hassle free vehicle purchase experience.
In closing, would it be too much to ask that you write a quick paragraph or two on Google Places summarizing how you feel about the experience you had here with our team? I would very much appreciate it.
Stab. Stab. Stab.
Yes indeed it would be too much to ask.
I only wanted to buy a dang car from you people, not become your full-time marketing department.
However, it would NOT be too much to ask for me to write a 1,300 word blog post about your relentless feedback pandering.
A would-be happy customer…if you’d just quit asking me to tell you that I’m happy already.