There’s an old saying that, in life, timing is everything. Based on my recent experiences, I think this adage applies to customer satisfaction research as well.
Last month, my wife and I went to purchase a used Toyota Camry hybrid (we are trying to go green while saving some green at the pump). We test-drove the car on a Friday night and verbally agreed to purchase it. The next day we finished the paperwork and jumped in the car to head home. Halfway there, I looked at the gas gauge and it was nearly empty. I was a bit angry that the dealership had shorted us like that.
In addition, during our drive, we found a host of problems: the navigation stopped tracking the vehicle location and the nav screen began to fade; the remote key fobs didn’t work; and we noticed a poorly-executed repair to the leather in the back seat.
While all of these things were fixable, my wife and I felt the hassle was more than we wanted to deal with. And, if the near-empty gas tank was any indication, the dealership’s attitude toward customer service might not be the greatest. So we decided to return the car under the dealership’s three-day return policy.
After a small fight with a manager, they agreed to take the car back that same day. That night, in my e-mail in-box, was a customer satisfaction survey. They wanted to know our opinion on the salesperson, the finance manager and the dealership in general. They also wanted to know if we were satisfied with the car.
After airing my views, I stopped to consider whether the dealership should have waited to send this survey. Why not at least let the three-day window pass? Even if we had not returned the car and everything had been okay, I don’t know that six hours is enough time for a customer to effectively evaluate the service and product they received.
Similarly, when we had DirectTV installed, we got a customer satisfaction survey e-mailed to us literally the minute the installer left the house. I was impressed by the speed, but honestly, I never took the survey, because I went to check out my satellite service and forgot to go back and give feedback. It seems that DirectTV would have been better off sending the survey 24 hours after the install, to give me time to use and interact with the service.
I understand that, in many cases, the goal is to capture consumers’ responses while an experience is fresh. But how soon is too soon? When is the appropriate time to send a customer satisfaction survey? I would love to hear others’ opinions.