My wife and I recently purchased a new car. On the whole, I would call the process uneventful. We had done our research and quickly identified the car we wanted to buy. It was just a matter of going to the dealership and closing the deal.

What really struck me about the process was what happened after we bought our car, more specifically the day we went to pick up the car at the dealer.

As we were getting ready to leave with our brand new car, our salesperson approached us and politely asked to speak to us privately. We gladly obliged and followed him to his desk.

What ensued was a classic case of marketing research losing its way.

The salesperson informed us that we would be receiving an invitation to complete a satisfaction survey in the next few days. Fair enough. After all, if 10 minutes of our time could lead to a better experience for future customers, why not?

Unfortunately, things didn’t stop there. The salesperson then strongly encouraged us to ‘answer 10’ on all 1 to 10 satisfaction questions. He explained that his end-of-year bonus is tied to the final score he receives on customer satisfaction surveys. Anything below a 10 meant no bonus for him.

He went as far as offering us two options:

  1. To not fill out the survey at all, if we were planning on giving him anything less than a 10.
  2. Graciously offering to fill out the survey himself, if we were planning on giving him a 10 anyways.

I learned valuable lessons that day as a market researcher:

  1. How employees are encouraging participation in customer satisfaction surveys should be closely monitored.
  2. Employee compensation should not be solely tied to customer satisfaction surveys.
  3. Independent third-parties should be used to conduct follow-up interviews. This person to person approach would serve to validate the quality of the data being collected.
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