Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Dissatisfied Dealer: Curmudgeon or Harbinger?by Charlene Hovatter

These are the ‘happy ones’ – the barometer of your company’s service ethic and responsiveness, and your key to growing revenue and profitability. For most of our participating OEMs, satisfied dealers are the majority, and increasing.

But what about the others . . . the few, the not proud, the disgruntled? What about the dealers who mark “Very Dissatisfied” or “Somewhat Dissatisfied” on their surveys? What do they tell us about our business, if
anything? Do these guys and gals just roll out of the bed on the wrong side the morning the survey appears in their inbox, or can they provide us with just as valuable insights into our business as the “many” that are satisfied? And how do we keep those many satisfied dealers from joining their brethren on the ‘dark side’?

Admittedly, there aren’t many of these dealers. . . so, why should we care about them?

Why Care About Dissatisfied Dealers?

If there are so few dissatisfied dealers, why should we care?

Well, first of all, there is quite a bit of variation among participating companies, so some should care more than others . . .

. . . And we know from experience that moving dealers “up the satisfaction ladder” impacts their purchase loyalty.

But, beyond overall satisfaction, companies can sometimes rapidly identify areas in need of immediate attention by examining dissatisfied dealers in the sub-categories. This isn’t always obvious based on only your ‘top-box’ score.

Can A Dissatisfied Dealer Become Satisfied?

So, how intractable are dissatisfied dealers? Is it worth the time to try to move them into the “Satisfied” bucket? Based on data from our 2012 and 2013 Automotive Parts Manager Surveys, these dealers are easier than average to move . . . and they have nowhere to go but up.

We found 4,616 dealers who participated in both the 2012 and 2013 Automotive Parts Manager Survey. To ensure that the same individual filled out the survey over the two years, we matched OEM + dealer code + respondent name.

Our analysis with this sample of 4,616 dealers reveals that while most “somewhat” or “very” satisfied dealers did not change their rating between 2012 and 2013, nearly all of the “somewhat” or “very” dissatisfied dealers did so.

Our surveys are designed around a 5-point scale, with 1 being “Very Dissatisfied” and 5 being “Very Satisfied”. On average, dealers with a “Very Dissatisfied” rating in 2012 moved up 1.7 points on the scale in 2013, while dealers with a “Somewhat Dissatisfied” rating in 2012 moved up 1.3 points in 2013. So, when these individuals change a rating, the magnitude trends toward moving up into the “Neutral” – “Very Satisfied” range. This suggests that dissatisfied dealers are not chronically dissatisfied, but rather reacting to specific, actionable situations, and that they are relatively easily ‘recaptured’ once their issues are resolved.

Bottom Line

For all of our surveys, in addition to the primary deliverable which focuses on “Very Satisfied” customers, we issue a “Total Distribution Report” which shows a complete breakdown of scores across the five satisfaction ratings for each survey question. This is one of our oft-forgotten deliverables. Some participating OEMs may not even know about it or distribute it internally. However, it provides unique and sometimes powerful insights into your survey results by allowing you to tailor your analysis to your specific needs. Spend some time with this report, looking at the percentage of your dealers who are dissatisfied in either “Overall Satisfaction” or specific topics. Then, leverage your raw data report to seek out these dealers and identify their particular issues. Sometimes it will be a systemic issue impacting a large number of dealers, or it could be a number of issues unique to individual dealers. Calling dissatisfied dealers to further discuss their issues is a highly effective method of increasing OEM satisfaction ratings. Taking steps to identify your most dissatisfied dealers and address their unique needs will move your organization toward greater customer engagement and profitability.


If you need assistance with this or other analysis related to your survey results, contact Harry Hollenberg at or 978-318-0500 X106.

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