The Customer Service Survey

Broken Toyota Survey

by Peter Leppik on Wed, 2012-08-01 15:38

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 practices 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.

Sorry...This form is closed to new submissions.