I was going through my mail last night and discovered  a survey from the manufacturer of my car.  Since survey research is a major part of my work, I figured it would be good Karma to take it.

I happily started the survey and realized it was supposed to be about my most recent visit to their service department.  Hmm.  Couldn’t remember when that was.  Oh well, I’ve been there a few times so I thought I could still answer.  Wrong.

The questions were very specific to that visit, which isn’t necessarily bad except that they were asking respondents to recall details of their visit that most people would probably have forgotten right after they left the dealer, let alone remembered weeks or months later.  For example…

  • I was promptly greeted upon arrival [Scale: Completely Disagree to Completely Agree]
  • My paperwork was ready when I walked in to pick up my car [Scale: Completely Disagree to Completely Agree]
  • Availability of business cards [Scale: Unacceptable to Extraordinary]

After struggling to find questions that I could answer, I went through my car files to see when I was actually there.  While I did buy an oil filter in the service department back in January (2 months ago), my car was last serviced in October (5 months ago!).

While I applaud businesses for wanting to measure customer satisfaction (then hopefully act on it), it must remembered that customers cannot always recall specific parts of the experience (or care), and the more specific the information you want, the closer to the actual experience you must be when you measure it (exit survey? secret shopper? one-on-one interview during the experience?).

Finally, the actionability of the information gathered should be considered.  What will change because of the result?