One Woman’s Vision in a Man’s Industry

One Woman’s Vision in a Man’s Industry

The Puget Sound Dealer

Back in 1967, a woman named Kathy Dunkle stepped into a Seattle auto dealership desperately seeking work. She navigated through to the general manager, who identified her talents but had no job openings. After some thought, however, he handed Kathy a stack of completed repair orders and asked her to call each customer to find out what they thought of their experiences with the dealership. He didn’t have any way to gauge whether or not they were satisfied with the services they’d received, and he knew that customers who weren’t satisfied would cease being customers. They would take their business someplace else.

Kathy started making the calls, beginning by thanking each customer for their business. The customers were skeptical, and some even thought the calls were a hoax. Nobody had ever called them before to find out if they were satisfied with any service they had received. They were all amazed that an auto dealership would do something like that. By the time she was finished, Kathy knew that she was onto something important. It was clear to her that the information she was getting—earfuls of it—was crucial to the dealer and to his success. He could use it to learn how to serve his customers better, and that would help him improve his business. Then Kathy realized that this was just one set of completed orders from one auto dealership in Seattle. Surely other dealers would be interested in finding out information about their customers’ experiences, too. This brainstorm is what inspired Kathy to establish Customer Research, Inc., the nation’s first customer satisfaction follow-up company in the automotive industry.

This was before the development of the Customer Satisfaction Index, today’s industry standard on which the success of each individual auto dealership depends. In 1967, monitoring customer satisfaction wasn’t yet a priority within any business sector. Now, however, every manufacturer, retailer, and service entity tracks this information very closely.

Today, Customer Research, Inc., now led by Don Dunkle and Dusty Dunkle, specializes in providing customer satisfaction telephone follow-up programs for service, sales, and body shop customers. They also offer floor traffic prospecting and service reminder calls. Customer Research, Inc., provides ongoing follow-up services for hundreds of auto dealers and thousands of collision centers across North America. They work with nearly all auto manufacturers and have recently been selected by DaimlerChrysler as a nationally approved telephone follow-up company for the Five Star program.

Customer Research, Inc., can track complaints and supply the information their clients need to consistently increase CSI scores and preserve customer loyalty. Their telephone surveys are carefully designed and regularly evaluated to help management monitor customer satisfaction and obtain valuable research information, as well as generate sales leads. They provide unbiased reporting of important information, each and every month. This regular reporting offers CSI comparisons with a large database of auto dealers and breakdowns of CSI by advisor.

Customer Research, Inc., makes sure that every customer contact is a successful one. They have the most up-to-date calling equipment; but even more important, they invest in their employees. Over the years, Customer Research, Inc., has developed unique, ongoing training and motivational seminars for their staff. Working from their state-of-the-art call center, these interviewers have the best possible tools and know-how to provide their clients with optimum results.

The people at Customer Research, Inc., work hard to maintain rapid follow-up and quick turn-around time so that their clients have immediate access to the time-sensitive information they need. Each call is an exercise in individual attention, and the job satisfaction of the interviewers is reflected in the positive tone of the calls they make. Many of the telephone interviewers have worked with the company for more than ten years. The most senior interviewer, who still conducts follow-up calls six days each week, joined the company in 1983.

Technology and the Internet play a large role in the services of Customer Research, Inc. Their follow-up program is paperless, and they are the first in the industry to offer an interactive follow-up system, which allows clients to use their website as a tool to resolve customer issues. Each day, Customer Research, Inc., automatically dials into dealer management systems to obtain necessary customer information. Their interviewers immediately begin contacting customers. Once the follow-up interview is completed, the results are securely posted on the company’s website ( for the client to review.

By using Customer Research, Inc., dealerships can deploy their human resources in ways more directly suited to the nature of their business, freeing up their personnel to do what they do best: sell vehicles and provide excellent service to their customers. Dealers trying to maintain their own in-house follow-up programs find they can save time and money by using Customer Research, Inc. They are able to eliminate the burden of adding extra staff and incurring additional expense, and they avoid the problem of giving the job to a key employee only to have it take that employee away from other, more important tasks.

Kathy Dunkle’s business began with a great idea, well executed. Today, Customer Research, Inc., continues to build on her concept, continually improving their techniques to make sure that each client is always completely satisfied. Customer Research, Inc., contacts a higher percentage of customers than in-house programs are able to, and does an exceptional job of guaranteeing consistency. If an in-house follow-up person is absent because of illness, leave, or any other reason, the follow-up process is interrupted. The consistency of Customer Research, Inc., is critical to a dealership’s success, and ability to qualify for and maintain participation in factory programs such as Ford’s Blue Oval and DaimlerChrysler’s Five Star.

“When it comes to experience, automotive customer satisfaction follow-up is not a small division within our company. It is and has always been the focus of the company since 1967,” says Don Dunkle, President of Customer Research, Inc. This firm continues to give careful attention to the details of customer satisfaction follow-up, so dealerships can reap the benefits.

For more information, contact Dusty Dunkle at Customer Research, Inc. (800) 886-3472 or (206) 242-9969.  You may also visit their website at