Sunday, June 22, 2014

How to Get the Most from Your Dealer Satisfaction Survey

So, you solicit your dealers once a year to ask for their feedback on how well you’re doing to support their needs. That’s a good first start; not every OEM takes even this first step. However, you’re starting to find that your dealers are losing interest, or maybe your scores aren’t improving, or you’re starting to question how well you’re leveraging the survey results. Don’t worry; you’re not the only one in this predicament.

At our 2014 NAPB, Carlisle facilitated a panel discussion with some OEMs that are among the best-in-class (BIC) at managing their survey processes. How do we know they’re best-in-class? For starters, they are all making dramatic, long-term improvements in their satisfaction scores from dealers. Examples from two of these OEMs are below:

Another measure of BIC is dealer response rate, as dealers will not continue taking the survey in large numbers if they feel they are wasting their time. Our BIC OEMs are all achieving rates in the 80%-100%.

So, what are these OEMs doing? They are taking four simple steps:
  1. Pre-Survey: Remind Dealers What You Did Over The Previous Year
    While you may have been working like a dog over the past year to implement improvements that respond to last year’s survey results, your dealers aren’t always aware of this. Remind them what they said last year, and what you’ve been doing in response to what they said.
  2. Survey Launch: Set 100% Response Rate Expectation
    The beauty of internet surveys is that you don’t just mail surveys and wait for results. The survey administrator can constantly track response rates, which allows you to target the non-responders. Send out 2-3 updates throughout the survey period to the non-responders. Involve your field force by sharing the response updates with them. One of our BIC OEMs tells us that, “100% response rate is the corporate expectation. All District Managers with 100% response rates are publically recognized.”
  3. Post-Survey: Dive Into The Results
    Simply looking at your overall result is just the tip of the iceberg. You got a 43% satisfaction score in Parts Delivery, a drop of 10 points from last year…What does that mean? Segment your scores. Did scores drop across the board, or just in certain regions…or just for dealers assigned to a certain carrier…or just for certain size dealers…or just for dealers with an above average amount of emergency (i.e., parcel) shipments, etc.?

    Read your dealer comments as well. The numbers only serve as a beacon, pointing out possible problem areas. The comments provide the detail necessary to identify and, ultimately, fix the actual problem. Do you want to really blow your dealers’ socks off? Call them to discuss their comments. Not only will you get a better understanding of what the real issues are, but you will send an extremely strong message that this survey is more than lip service. Your dealers will know that you really are committed to improving your performance.

    Most of the BIC OEMs conduct this analysis in conjunction with developing action plans. Process owners (e.g., warehouse operations, transportation, marketing, warranty, etc.) are assigned the task of analyzing their unique survey results, identifying the key issues, and developing action plans to address the highest priority issues. Without instituting an action plan process, the survey results can become nothing more than a fun read.
  4. Post Analysis: Communicate Results to Dealers
    Dealers want to know they didn’t waste their time taking the survey. Without this feedback loop, respondents will become frustrated and the response rate will take a nosedive. The format is not important—we’ve seen everything from emails and updates posted on the dealer portal to videos, brochures, and presentations at annual dealer meetings.

    What is important is the message, which should at the least contain:
    • Thank you for taking the survey
    • Overall results
    • Areas where you did well
    • Areas where you didn’t do well
    • If you’ve figured it out, how you plan to address the problem areas
Bottom line: If managed appropriately, these surveys can have a tremendous impact on dealer satisfaction and, ultimately, key metrics that drive the success of our own businesses (i.e., purchase loyalty, service retention, repurchase intent, etc.). Conversely, if we are just going through the motions so we can “check off” the customer service box, it can be a tremendous waste of time, energy, and resources.

As the facilitator of 10+ industry-syndicated dealer surveys, Carlisle feels responsible for helping all of our participating OEMs choose the right path. If you would like any help, suggestions, or just the chance to discuss your approach, feel free to give us a call.

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