Tips to Improve Survey Response Rates When It Matters Most

response rates

Dealership traffic volumes continue to be suppressed. For shoppers reaching out to dealerships online and in person, buying intent seems to be much higher than pre-COVID. Although the average customer visits 2.5 dealerships before making their purchase according to the 2019 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey study, 41 percent only visited one store. That’s the number that’s bound to increase.

Each of the new car buyers at your dealership has made a choice to do business with you, but COVID-19 increases the potential that they’re only seeking the transaction, not the ideal relationship with a salesperson or a store. While not completely satisfied with the process, they may choose to buy anyway for the sake of minimizing contact.

The result is a customer who may not be willing to give a five-star rating for your dealership, and they’re going to be getting a sales satisfaction index (SSI) survey from the manufacturer. 

Improved Response Rates are Key

response ratesEvery dealership has a different survey response rate depending on manufacturer, customer demographic, and region. CustomerThermometer states that an average response rate is between 5 and 30%. One thing that’s common across all industries, though, is that unhappy customers are far more likely to complete a negative survey response than a moderately happy customer is. That skews the results.

That matters most now since more customers are buying the product, not the experience. Yet, the survey is completely about the experience. Online buyers, for example, have limited personal contact with anyone at the dealership. Questions aren’t geared for this type of interaction, and negative experiences will always be more vocal.

Washing out the negative responses is best done with an influx of positive surveys. Perfect score or not, these surveys are needed to boost your overall score. 

Tips to Boost Survey Responses

Most manufacturers forbid dealerships from offering incentives to complete surveys. So, how do you increase the likelihood a car buyer will fill out their SSI survey, and in your favor?

Let them Know what to Watch For

You’re aware that the survey will be going out, and there’s nothing saying you can’t prepare a customer for its arrival in their inbox. Most car buyers aren’t aware that the survey impacts the dealership’s revenue from the manufacturer, nor are they aware that the salesperson is graded based on the responses.

Say something along the lines of, “Just so you know, you’ll be receiving a survey from [brand] in the next week or two. It’s a rating for me as your salesperson as well as the dealership, not for the vehicle you’ve bought. If it’s at all possible, please fill out the survey as honestly as you can. It goes a long way.”

Conduct a Pilot Survey

There’s nothing stating that you can’t get ahead of the manufacturer’s survey with one of your own. Compile a professional survey and send it to buyers just a day or two after their purchase. Make it short and sweet with opportunities to air any grievances. This avenue can allow you time to correct any issues prior to the arrival of the manufacturer’s survey.

At the end of your own survey, indicate that another one will follow from the manufacturer, and its importance. 

Place a Call

It’s commonplace and good practice for the salesperson to conduct a follow-up call at certain intervals. The first should be within a couple days of the sale. The second call could be adjusted to just after the OEM survey’s expected arrival.

It’s in the salesperson’s interest to have the surveys completed, and they can mention that if the customer has not yet filled it out, it would be appreciated if they would.

Most dealers, managers, and salespeople would tell you that OEM surveys are deeply flawed but they’re still part of the business. Increasing your response rate with positive survey results will help mitigate the vocal negative respondents.


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