UPDATED: 5/5/14 1:09 pm ET - adds correction
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story should have said that Hyundai Motor America pays dealer incentives for service and sales satisfaction performance, but not its voluntary SureCritic consumer-rating program.
General Motors plans to shorten its customer satisfaction survey and ask shoppers to give dealers online-ready ratings and reviews, said two sources familiar with the program.
It's a significant departure from the current long survey, which GM and others have used for decades. The short survey is designed to gather faster, more effective feedback.
As early as this month, most of GM's 4,200 dealerships will begin sending to sales and service customers the shorter surveys -- fewer than 10 questions -- that for the first time will prompt respondents to rate their dealership experience one to five stars and write a review for online posting. Currently, GM sends out customer satisfaction surveys separate from the reputation-management vendors that dealers use to solicit online reviews.
If the pilot is successful, the shorter forms could eventually supplant the longer 22-question customer satisfaction surveys that GM now uses, the sources say. The long forms are often criticized for taking a long time to fill out and being out-of-tune with the Internet's ability to swiftly post customer feedback.
And the program recognizes that consumer reviews on sites such as Google and social media play an increasing role in where customers shop.
Customer satisfaction scores from the long forms are a major part of GM's dealer-excellence incentive program that pays quarterly bonuses for meeting various performance targets.
GM is among a handful of automakers, including Hyundai Motor America, rethinking how they gather and process customer feedback. Customer satisfaction surveys have been a mainstay of the industry for decades.
The new survey is an attempt to get information to dealers quicker than the 30 to 60 days it now typically takes to get customer-satisfaction feedback, the sources said.
When asked about the new program, GM spokeswoman Susan Waun wrote in an e-mail, "Together with our dealer partners, we are always looking at better ways to garner rich, timely customer feedback to provide the best overall customer experience in the industry. We have nothing new to announce at this time."
GM plans to continue sending the long form to customers during the pilot, in part, because of dealer incentives attached to customer satisfaction scores, the sources said.
Dealers must hit their customer-service rating targets, along with increasing year-over-year sales, to qualify for a quarterly bonus under GM's Standards for Excellence incentive program. Quarterly payouts range from around $10,000 for a small dealership to more than $150,000 for big stores.
About nine months ago, Hyundai was one of the first U.S. automakers to offer a customer satisfaction survey to its dealers that combined questions with an opportunity for consumers to write a review.
Today, 701 of Hyundai's 826 U.S. dealers have signed up for the voluntary program, said Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai executive director of Customer Connect, Blue Link and service business development.
The program is helping dealers stockpile consumer reviews that reputation-management vendor SureCritic posts to participating dealerships' SureCritic pages for public viewing.
For example, in the fourth quarter last year, dealerships in the program generated 4,000 total reviews from the service customers who received the customer satisfaction survey, he said. That total jumped to 10,000 in the first quarter of this year.
Online reviews and ratings are important because shoppers increasingly use them to decide where to shop.
Short and simple
Hyundai's new survey, which is e-mailed to service customers, has two links. The first takes the customer to a 30-question questionnaire hosted on its own site.
The second link takes the customer to a site that wants to know just three things. It asks the customer to rate the service from one star (worst) to five stars; it asks if the customer would recommend the dealer to a friend or family member; and it asks the customer to write a review about his or her experience.
So far this year, Hyundai dealers in the program have attained an aggregate score of 4.7 stars, Ratzlaff said.
Hyundai pays incentives to dealers for their service satisfaction performance as well as for customer satisfaction with their sales experience, Ratzlaff said. Dealers don’t get an incentive, though, for participating in the SureCritic consumer-review program.
Hyundai is taking a more cautious approach and offering the survey with a review link only to service customers and not sales customers. The latter get only a long form, he said.