Accountability with no Authority


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One of my favorite blogs, Consumer Report’s Consumerist, nails it again with a confession from a car salesperson who says that he gets penalized $100 (out of a measly $150 commission) for a less-than-perfect customer survey. The kicker is that two-thirds of the survey isn’t even about the salesperson: it’s about the finance office, the cleanliness of the dealership, and so forth.

Is it any wonder that he intercepts all the customer surveys and fills them out himself?

Needless to say, this survey process is entirely broken. I’m guessing that the manufacturer dings the dealer for subpar customer feedback, and the dealer simply takes it all from the salesperson. The dealership probably knows (or at least suspects) that the salespeople cheat the survey, but doesn’t care because it works out better for the dealer that way.

The result forces “accountability” on people who have no authority to make needed changes, and creates a situation where the only way to win is to cheat.

This is also a classic trap for customer feedback programs stuck at Maturity Level Two (“Accountability”). They have created a system of rewards and punishment for getting good feedback, but don’t have the tools to incorporate feedback into creating better customer experiences, nor do they have the sophistication to actively monitor the process for fraud.

The result is a feedback program which looks good on paper, but in practice doesn’t get taken seriously. Everyone knows that everyone cheats, and therefore nobody believes anything about the system. In the unlikely event that actual customer feedback makes it through, it won’t be taken seriously.

There is a way to get out of this, but it probably starts with ending the survey completely and rebuilding the program from scratch. A clean break from the past is sometimes the only way to end a bad process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Leppik
Peter U. Leppik is president and CEO of Vocalabs. He founded Vocal Laboratories Inc. in 2001 to apply scientific principles of data collection and analysis to the problem of improving customer service. Leppik has led efforts to measure, compare and publish customer service quality through third party, independent research. At Vocalabs, Leppik has assembled a team of professionals with deep expertise in survey methodology, data communications and data visualization to provide clients with best-in-class tools for improving customer service through real-time customer feedback.


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