For years, automakers have surveyed customers to make sure they were happy with warranty service performed at dealerships.
Now Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. are surveying customers who pay for maintenance and nonwarranty repairs.
The surveys are designed to increase customer-pay business at the dealerships to offset the decline in warranty work as vehicle quality improves.
Pam Flores, a spokeswoman for GM Service and Parts Operations, said the company sends an eight-question e-mail survey to customers who purchase nonwarranty services from its dealerships.
If a customer is dissatisfied, the dealership receives an e-mail alert. The store usually gets feedback within a day or two after the service visit.
"Dealers need the information," said Flores. "It gives them the opportunity to make things right."
Dealers need to take care of these customers to stem defections to independent garages and repair chains. Dealers have been promoting nonwarranty repair and maintenance work, especially as vehicle sales slowed. But they've lost business to other service centers.
The economy also has prompted consumers to keep vehicles long after the warranty expired. The National Automobile Dealers Association says the average vehicle on the road was more than 10 years old in 2009.
In tough times, franchised dealers are selling older used vehicles. And some of these customers are returning to the shop for service.