Broken Toyota Survey


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Two weeks ago my old rustbucket died, so I bought a new car: a Prius v station wagon. That’s “v” as in the letter v, by the way, not the roman numeral five. Toyota is adamant about that.

Today I got an e-mail invitation to take a survey about my experience. Lately I’ve been hammering on car dealers about their blatantly manipulative pratctices around customer satisfaction surveys, so I’m happy to report that my Toyota dealer didn’t make any obvious attempts to influence my ratings.

[They did, however, repeatedly tell me that they hoped their service was “Excellent” and that I was “Very Satisfied” with my experience. Quotation marks and boldface type included.]

Toyota’s survey had some issues, however. As I went through the dozen or so web pages, I kept getting database errors like the one in the screenshot (click for a larger view). In fact, I got more database errors than successes–it took a considerable effort to actually complete the entire survey.

As a technology guy, these errors tell me that Toyota isn’t paying much attention to how well its survey is running. Deadlock errors like these happen because of resource contention in a database. They don’t show up until the system is being heavily used, but Toyota should have anticipated the number of surveys they would have to support and tested the system appropriately. And when unexpected errors do occur, the software should be designed to fail gracefully, rather than giving the user a scary-sounding error message.

[I, for one, am glad someone else was chosen as the “deadlock victim.”]

From a customer perspective, these error messages clearly communicate to me that Toyota doesn’t care enough about its customer survey to make sure it, you know, works.

As it happens, I really like my new car and the dealer did a great job with me. But if Toyota wants me to take ten minutes out of my day to communcate my opinions, they need to show that they’re actually paying attention to the feedback.

As an aside, the branding of the Prius station wagon drives me insane. The model is “Prius v” and that’s the letter “v” not the roman numeral five. Because, you see, the car comes in three different trim levels: “two,” “three” and “five.” “Two” is basic, “three” has the fancy stereo, and “five” gets you the heated leather seats. If you, like most native English speakers, want to read the “v” as “five,” this quickly gets confusing.

Every time I misspoke and said “Prius five” the salesperson quickly corrected me that it’s “Prius ‘v'”. This happened with multiple salespeople, so I think Toyota must have their Branding Police out there making sure everyone toes the line.

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.


  1. Just bought a new Toyota Prius. Excited to get an on line survey to fill out. Anxious because the sales person was exceptional and deserved all the Kudos I could muster on his behalf. The survey was a technical nightmare loaded with error signals. Finally it just crapped out on me after expending time, effort and a lot of thought for what I wanted to say. It was all lost. Ashamed the sales person will not be recognized BUT the assholes that created the survey still have jobs!

    I’d like another survey because the sales person was just that good. Any ideas?

  2. The real way to see if your really nice guy salesman is genuine or not is to contact him after the sale if you have a problem. From experience he will fob you off to some lacky in the ?service? area for you to battle it out on your own.. So much for the “really nice salesman”?

  3. I have bought eight Toyotas and tried to reply on the Toyota survey site on all deals ,both for service and sales not managed it once as soon as you try to get on line it cuts you off.
    The service at my local Toyota garage is excellent both on sales and service,but unfortunately due to these problems Toyota are not aware.
    Who actually runs the site?


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