Hyundai is trying to bring the venerable written CSI survey into the age of the cloud, Twitter and Facebook.
The brand has devised a new method, using e-mail and three-day turnarounds, to change the way it determines customer satisfaction, addressing a problem that has long plagued dealerships that have had to wait too long for results.
Under the plan, which Hyundai Motor America tested last year and which will be rolled out nationally in July, service customers will get a three-question e-mail survey. Results come back with a one- to five-star rating and feedback that allows dealers to act quickly on suggestions and complaints, said Seattle-area Hyundai dealer Gary Micallef, one of 25 Hyundai dealers involved in the pilot project last year.
The star ratings program will be optional for dealers. All dealers will continue to be measured by a more traditional, but much shorter CSI survey form that was introduced nationally this month.
The CSI -- Customer Satisfaction Index -- process rankles many dealers because the traditional survey at many brands is long and unwieldy. Some dealers game the system by coaching customers in order to boost their scores. And some automakers use the surveys to score dealers for bonus payments.
Hyundai says its tools, on the other hand, could make CSI a useful method to solve customer problems and provide an accurate gauge of how well dealerships are handling customer issues.
Eventually, "I think the written survey will be gone by the wayside," said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America's executive vice president of national sales. "The e-mail survey will be gone by the wayside. And we'll be looking at posts as the way to evaluate customer satisfaction."
But all that's a few years away, he acknowledges. In the meantime, Hyundai and others are working on the new computer tools.
From July through November of last year, Hyundai tested an alternative to CSI for service customers at 25 dealerships, said Frank Ferrara, Hyundai's executive vice president of customer satisfaction.
Instead of receiving a 60-question CSI survey often 45 days after service, about 10 percent of service customers were e-mailed a three-question survey almost immediately that asked them to rate service on a scale of 1 to 5.
They were also encouraged to say why they would or would not recommend the store to a friend or family member.
If a review was four stars or better, Ferrara said, the survey vendor, SureCritic of suburban Seattle, would send a follow-up e-mail. It asked the customer if he or she would like the review posted on SureCritic.com or other review sites, such as DealerRater and Yelp.
If a review was three stars or below, the dealer was notified immediately and was given 10 days to contact the customer to try to resolve any problems and request a new review, Ferrara said. Either way, the customer had the option to change the review or post the low-score one, he said.
As part of the pilot, about 90 percent of service customers were sent the traditional 60-question CSI survey, which often took 60 days to get back, Ferrara said. Hyundai still ties a nominal bonus for service managers and advisers to CSI scores, he said. But it eliminated big CSI payments for dealers about four years ago.
Micallef, who is dealer principal of Hyundai of Everett, said his store was able to make operating changes based on the immediate feedback he received from the three-question survey.
The surveys he saw from oil-change customers showed that the store too often was failing to meet the 30 minute in-and-out that it promised, Micallef said.
To rectify the issue, Hyundai of Everett switched its four lube technicians from a work schedule of five days a week for eight hours to three days a week on 13-hour shifts, he said.
That change allowed the store to increase the hours of operations of its two lube bays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Micallef said.
The extra hours of operation addressed another gripe of customers identified on the surveys: that appointments were too hard to get and had to be scheduled far in advance, he said.
"It was the verbatim portion of the survey that showed us that," he said.
In April, Micallef plans to move the store to a bigger location that will relieve another customer criticism that was repeated in the surveys. That is, shoppers found it inconvenient that the store lacked room to keep its entire vehicle inventory on one lot.
Instead they often had to be shuttled to a separate lot three miles away, Micallef said. When the store gets to the new 4.5-acre site, a former Dodge store a mile from the original location, that no longer will be a problem. Hyundai of Everett sells about 100 new vehicles a month.
Oscar Leeser, president of Hyundai of El Paso in Texas, who participated in the pilot, agreed that the instant feedback was more beneficial than the dated information he has gotten for years from his CSI surveys.
As a member of the Hyundai dealer council, he said the group is expected to compare notes and assess the results of the pilot when it meets next month.
"We're going to a cyber world," said Leeser, whose store sold 3,400 new vehicles last year. "The yes and no answers on the CSI survey are becoming a thing of the past."
Chrysler, for example, eliminated dealer payments and penalties last year for CSI scores. The automaker said dealers putting a strong emphasis on customer service and the buying experience would be rewarded with more vehicle sales and service retention.
Hyundai's Ferrara said the carmaker likes what it has seen. Starting this month, Hyundai shortened the traditional 60-question CSI survey to 40 questions. It takes about 10 minutes to complete instead of 20 minutes, he said.
By July, the plan is to pair the 40-question CSI with the three-question review survey for any of Hyundai's 820 dealerships that wants the hybrid approach, Ferrara said.
Hyundai also is looking at whether a similar short form would work to survey vehicle sales customers, he said. But that decision will take more discussion with dealers.
He said, though, that the new approach is here to stay for service customers.