BLOG: Early Morning Musings, On Oil Changes

On the agony of customer satisfaction surveys.

In a rare display of responsible behavior I took both of our cars in to the dealership for oil changes a few weeks ago. I will never make that mistake again.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the dealership. Between the various members of the family we’ve acquired six vehicles from there in the last few years, and have been happy with all of them. Their service department is fine. They did a fine job on the oil changes, which means that they put all the plugs back where they belonged, checked off 87 items on their to-do list, and threw in car washes. The prices were fair, the people courteous, and the work all done in about 30 minutes, just enough time for me to drink a cup of coffee and read the morning paper. They did a fine job on the oil changes. No complaint there.

But then the harassment from corporate headquarters began. They were eager for me to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Boy, were they ever eager.  They’ve contacted me by e-mail twice for each of the cars, and now snail mail has started. If I took the survey seriously, it would take me longer to complete the survey than it took to get the oil changed. The survey had over forty questions for me to answer. Most of them asked me to rate the experience from 1 (unacceptable) to 10 (totally exceptional) in categories like “the timeliness of the drop-off process” and “amenities in the customer waiting area”. It went on like that.

Well, shucks, that’s a toughie. I mean, the coffee in the customer waiting area was hot and strong, but it was not great coffee. It was good coffee. Should I give it a “6”? An “8”? Am I allowed a “7.5”? And, to tell the truth, the newspaper in the customer waiting area was not the newspaper I usually read, and it is not a newspaper I like, so maybe that would pull my satisfaction level down to a “4”.

I’m not a young man. My time is valuable to me. I am not inclined to spend it thinking about matters that might be important to corporate headquarters, but are trivial to me. Corporate headquarters, I’ll make a deal with you: You don’t ask me to spend my time thinking about those things, and I won’t ask you to spend your time thinking about which restaurant we should go to for dinner tonight.

Concern for customer satisfaction is a good thing, but it can become annoyingly pushy, like the restaurant server who asks you how the food is before you’ve had the chance to unfold your napkin. I still like the dealership (which I have not named for fear of libel!) and would be inclined to shop there for another vehicle, but I’m not going back for service, just to spare myself the annoyance of the corporate customer satisfaction survey. The next time we need oil changes, I’m going to one of those quickie places by the side of the road where they will change my oil and leave it at that.

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