|Satisfaction: Our Own Customers, Our Own Work
| "Even if a Honda product were to be the center of attention for a while," said Yoshihide Munekuni, who was then in charge of auto sales for American Honda, "no American dealer will carry Honda on a long-term basis without first understanding and sharing the philosophy behind our corporate activities." Munekuni enlisted the help of J.D. Power & Associates, an automotive research firm, to conduct a survey of every customer who had purchased a Civic through an auto dealer having a sales agreement with American Honda. Beginning in 1976, customer opinions and requests regarding the Civic's general concept and quality, as well as their dealership, were to be collated on a yearly basis.
Munekuni and the staff at J.D. Power arranged and summarized the opinions of the respondents. Opinions regarding the product's concept were sent to the R&D Center as user feedback, while those regarding quality were sent to the factories. Any request that could be answered immediately was given a timely response. Even other issues brought up by the customers were arranged so that they could steadily be reflected in developing and manufacturing the next model.
Opinions and requests regarding the dealerships were also summarized for each dealer using a point system. Subsequently, American Honda's auto sales staff began visiting the dealers one by one, bringing along their files. Based on customer requests, the sales staff and dealers would discuss measures to be taken before the next survey period, making plans for their implementation.
American Honda, too, made a consistent effort to respond to customer requests through its products, working in unison with the dealers to enhance the system of sales and service. Eventually, the dealerships began to trust American Honda. Some began setting up Honda showrooms and putting additional effort into the service department, eventually leading to the birth of dealers specializing exclusively in Honda automobiles.
"CS (Customer Satisfaction) activity did not start out as the neatly arranged program it is today," Munekuni said, recalling the early days of that program. "It was the result of ideas we'd come up with on how we could share Honda's philosophy-satisfying the customer through our work-with the dealers, and how we could have the dealers handle our products responsibly over the long run. We conducted interviews with every individual customer for a span of several years in the hope of providing products and services based on our American customer'srequests.By implementing their opinions,we were able to win the trust of ourcustomers and dealers.It was through all this effort that we were able toestablish a sales network for American Honda.”
The CS program helped bring the Accord to America in 1976,followed by thePrelude in 1979.Honda's user surveys around the world have continuallyexpanded,serving to enhance the entire product line-up.
Moreover,in 1983,the first-ever model created especially for the Americanmarket debuted.The exciting Civic CR-X(later sold in Japan as the BalladeSports CR-X)was developed through the implementation of survey resultscollected by Munekuni and other's and as a direct response to Americancustomer requests for a car offering the ultimate in fuel economy.
Honda R&D Centers in Japan and in America, in developing the CR-X, applied their considerable expertise in pursuit of a lighter body and a design that would satisfy the American driver. After much hard work, the resulting Civic CR-X by far exceeded the average American car in fuel efficiency (the average for gasoline engine automobiles was around 30 miles per gallon). Achieving efficiency in excess of 50 miles per gallon, the Civic CR-X appealed to American drivers and exemplified the high state of Honda technology.
As American Honda's product line grew, so did the company's reputation among customers and dealers. By 1986, the number of U.S. dealers had passed the 900 mark.In a country where dealers generally handled more than one make of car, the percentage of dealers specializing in Honda cars was more than 70 percent, making it the leading dealership network in America.
Having built a hugely successful network for the sale of widely purchased products such as the Civic, Accord, and Prelude, American Honda now turned to the challenge of building a network that could specialize in luxury cars and high-tech, sporty cars, and thus meet the demands of driving enthusiasts.
The Acura channel was launched in 1986 as American Honda's second sales network. About 60 dealers participated in this program as Honda specialists, selling the upscale Legend and sporty Integra.
That year, Honda placed first in overall customer satisfaction in a nationwide survey conducted by J.D. power & Associates.That was really no surprise, as in the ten years since the start of the CS program in 1976, American Honda had won the confidence of American consumers and grown to become the top auto sales network in the United States.
"Spreading Honda's philosophy in each country through products and marketing, and satisfying our customers through our work," Munekuni said, "is the business of Honda's corporations overseas. Likewise, what I was involved in-selling automobiles in America-represented an effort aiming to satisfy the customer with quality products and dealers. We consistently strove to take that satisfaction level even higher."
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