HAWAII AT WORK
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Koji Hashizume, center, helps monitor customer satisfaction at Pflueger Acura through a program it has in cooperation with American Honda Motor Co. Above, Hashizume on Wednesday discussed some customer concerns with Suzie Asato, left, a Pflueger Acura customer service representative, and Rick Brown, Acura's senior district parts and service manager for the West Coast and Hawaii region.
Keeping customers happy
Koji Hashizume wants people who buy cars from his employer to enjoy the experience
Koji Hashizume joined Pflueger Acura in its accounting department almost 17 years ago, thinking he would leave within a few years to continue his education. His first job after graduating was a minimum-wage position at J.C. Penney. But then he was offered an accounting position at the car dealership, which he accepted enthusiastically. "Acura paid $6 (an hour), and I'm like, 'Wow, my own office and desk and typewriter.' So I was kind of happy about that," he said last week, chuckling at the memory. Hashizume never did make it back to school, but said that if he ever were to go on to college, he probably would "take up some kind of business courses." In the meantime, he has worked his way up through the ranks at Pflueger Acura, where he now is a "facilitator" for its customer relations program. Hashizume, 34, is single and lives in Kapolei.
Job: Helps car dealer Pflueger Acura work with manufacturer American Honda Motor Co. to identify and resolve customer service problems at the dealership
What is your actual title?
Q: What do you facilitate?
A: Much of what I do is, I'm the in-between person between the dealership and the manufacturer, American Honda. So what happens is, the manufacturer, they survey all our customers by phone, so when you purchase a new car, they contact the customer -- or at least they make up to 25 attempts to contact every customer -- and they ask how their whole purchase experience was. And then we get the results -- they come back to the dealership -- and what we do is look at all the surveys, and each month we go over the top three issues at the dealership, and then we have both management and employees involved, and we sit down and work on ways to make those problems go away.
Q: What would be some of those "issues?"
A: We have issues like maybe the guys that detail the car to get it ready for delivery didn't pull out the protective plastic from the leather seats all the way, so it was still stuck in the car. Or sometimes, like on the lot --we have a small lot -- sometimes when they're showing the car, they'll open the door and it will nick the other car, and we don't catch it, and we don't find out until we deliver the car.
We don't have major complaints, like, "I drove the car home and the engine blew up." (Laughter)
We also do it on the sales and service side.
Q: What would be a problem on that side, for example?
A: Sometimes, like, we could have done better on the car wash. Just minor things.
Q: How long have you been doing this job?
A: This job, this year would be four years. But I've been with Pflueger almost 17 years.
Q: Did you take over from somebody else?
A: Nope, this is a program that American Honda started about four years ago. It's actually called EXCELL.
Q: That's an acronym, right?
A: Yes: Exceeding Customer Expectation Levels for Life. Their goal is for us to gain owner loyalty.
And what they also do is, they come in and audit our dealership once a year to make sure that we're following up with all our customers, and that we have a current process for -- they're called customer touch processes -- for everything that touches the customer. We document everything. Suzie, she documents all of our follow-up calls. She had a customer once who complained that while she was waiting for her car to be serviced, she was getting bit by mosquitoes. So even those kinds of complaints we forward to our management -- and also make sure that there's no stagnant water around, just in case it is a problem.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Koji Hashizume, left, on Wednesday reviewed customer service data on his computer at Pflueger Acura while customer service representative Suzie Asato handled a phone call.
What's Suzie's last name?
Q: What does she do?
A: She's our customer service representative.
Q: So you work with her?
Q: And who's your supervisor?
A: My supervisor would be the general manager of the dealership, John Shreve.
Q: What were you doing before you became the facilitator?
A: I worked in the accounting office, processing all the new and used car sales. I also processed titles. And then I created all the ads for the dealership. I still do that now.
Q: Have you ever wanted to be a car salesperson?
A: Uh ... (pause) ... hmmm. No, I don't think sales is for me. (Laughter)
Actually, when I first started working here, I was thinking, "Who wants to work at a car dealership?" I thought I would work here for a few years and then go back to school. But all these opportunities came up. I started as a title clerk, and then got into accounting.
Q: How did you get the job of facilitator?
A: The general manager at that time (Lyndon Lamphere), he knew that I'd been here a while and was familiar with the dealership and the staff, and at one point I was kind of getting tired of the daily accounting and meeting monthly deadlines, so he told me there was this new thing that the manufacturer was coming up with (the EXCELL program), and he said he thought it would be a good opportunity for me.
Q: So you applied for it?
A: Yes. Then we had one week training in Seattle to learn about the program, and it just went from there.
Q: How many salespeople are there at the dealership?
A: At our store -- we just have one Acura dealership --we have around 12 salespeople.
Q: Then there's a Pflueger Honda?
A: Yes. For the Honda store they have their own facilitator. Tony Honda also has one, and Windward Honda, too.
Q: Doesn't Pflueger sell other kinds of cars, too?
Q: How many other outlets do they have?
A: We have Acura, Honda. Then we have two used car lots, and three Subaru stores. And then we have the Cadillac, Hummer, GMC, and Buick. And then we also sell Honda and Yamaha motorcycles.
Q: So are Acuras a Honda vehicle?
A: Yes. It's like the luxury line of Honda. Like Lexus and Infiniti -- Lexus is made by Toyota, and Infinity is made by Nissan.
Q: How many cars does Pflueger Acura sell every year?
A: We sell on average about 70 to 80 cars a month.
Q: Are the Acuras all one model?
A: Nope. They range from about $20,000 to $90,000. So we have the RSX, the base model, then we have the TSX, a sedan; the TL, a midsize sedan; then we have the RL, which is our flagship sedan; and we have our MDX, which is our SUV. We also have the NSX, the one that costs about $90,000. That's a two-seater sports car.
Q: When the manufacturer comes around for its annual inspection of the dealership, what is it looking for?
A: They require us to have 13 customer-touch processes, so what they do is, once a year the manufacturer comes in and interviews employees at random to see if they know what the processes are. They make sure we have everything on file, and if there's an ongoing problem, that we're working on it and ways to improve it.