Automakers and dealers are moving toward a truce on how to measure customer satisfaction.
Both sides are trying to make customer satisfaction surveys more reliable, meaningful and easier to fill out. The change in tone and practice, evident at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas last week, includes a number of brands.
For example, Ford Division and Hyundai are cutting the length of customer-satisfaction surveys. Mazda is reducing its monetary rewards linked to customer satisfaction scores, a step already taken by Jaguar and Land Rover.
"For a long time, a lot of brands and manufacturers were focused on a scoring system that forgot what matters - and that is taking care of the customer," says Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler group executive vice president of global sales and marketing. "Customer satisfaction purely as a score is meaningless."
In recent years, dealers have accused the factories of using flawed methods to measure customer satisfaction while denying additional franchises to low-scoring dealers or linking big cash bonuses to high scores. The automakers have accused the dealers of manipulating customer satisfaction data by coaching customers or giving free oil changes in exchange for a completed survey.
The system "doesn't work as intended," says Alan Starling, last year's
NADA chairman. "It's become a gimmick, a marketing tool at best. No one benefits from flawed results. What matters is true customer satisfaction."