Satisfaction surveys: Timing is everything
Now may be the perfect time to replace or at least radically overhaul the traditional Customer Satisfaction Index.
Hyundai Motor America's pilot program testing a new service satisfaction process comes at an auspicious time. Sales CSI surveys should be next.
Millions of customers who haven't bought new cars or trucks in several years are heading back to dealerships as part of the industry sales surge. And those customers have different wants and needs than they did the last time they bought new vehicles.
For one thing, today's customers use the Internet more than ever to locate the vehicles they want and to select a dealership. Speed is essential to today's customers.
Social media have made word-of-mouth praise or criticism much easier to transmit to a wider, larger group of acquaintances. Speed is a fact of life for today's customers.
Dealers have complained about CSI scores almost from the start. Originally, with some justification, dealers grumbled that the CSI questionnaires didn't measure what they purported to measure and unfairly faulted dealerships for product defects that were the responsibility of the factory.
Another objection concerned the way the surveys were constructed. Gradually, CSI surveys were revised.
But, for the most part, there was still an issue about relevance and timeliness. Often a customer didn't receive a survey in the mail until weeks after the purchase, by which time he or she may have forgotten many of the details of the transaction and been disinclined to take the time to fill out a lengthy form.
Hyundai dealers who were part of the pilot program liked having a substitute customer survey that had only three questions and left plenty of room for customer comments. And the survey was e-mailed to a customer by the factory within hours of a transaction, rather than being dropped in the mail up to six weeks after he or she drove home.
Dealers say they received more usable customer feedback in a timely manner, which enabled them to address customer concerns quickly. The result was more customers satisfied with the manufacturer and the dealership.
Other automakers, such as Mazda North American Operations, are trying to accelerate the pace of customer feedback by using e-mail surveys of vehicle buyers. Eventually, even e-mail will be too slow.
In this age of speed and instant communication, it is unacceptable to wait six weeks to find out what your customer thinks. If the dealer and/or the manufacturer haven't already responded to a customer's issues by then, it's already too late to salvage the relationship. Now is the time for change.