Think Pieces

Michael's thoughts on the auto industry, its products, and/or this website.

A year of learning: TrueDelta's revised survey

After performing this reliability research for a year, discussions with members helped me realize that the original shop trip survey form could benefit from tweaking. You can view the revised form here.

1. More white space

I designed the original form to take up as little space as possible. As a result, items were crammed in. Aside from making the form somewhat hard to read, this made the survey appear more complicated.

To fix this problem, I've spaced the questions out a bit more on the revised form. Maybe it looks longer now, but owing to other changes the number of questions has actually been reduced.

2. Asking about one issue at a time; goodbye listboxes

Many people felt that the original form was too complicated. The listboxes for indicating how many issues were new, how many were old, and so forth were part of the problem. I used these to cover multiple issues on a single page. To eliminate the need for them, I revised the second half of the questionnaire to ask about one issue at a time.

This has a number of benefits. First, the listboxes are all gone. The radio buttons that have replaced them are much easier to use and much less likely to yield errors. The new format also requires fewer instructions and fewer checks for errors.

The disadvantage is that people whose cars had multiple problems will now have to answer more questions. But about three-quarters of all repair trips have been for a single issue. And the new form, because it is easier to fill out, might actually require less time to report two issues than the old one did despite the larger number of questions.

3. TSBs

When manufacturers learn of a fairly common problem with a model and devise a fix for this problem they often issue a "Technical Service Bulletin" that advises dealers how to fix it. In recent years these have been available on the Internet. Some people probably notice an issue with their vehicle only after reading or hearing about a TSB that discusses the issue. The new form includes this possibility.

4. Source of the issue

Some cars in the panel required repairs because they were damaged in transit or at the dealer, either before delivery or when back for service. It didn't seem right to have these incidents affect a measure of reliability. So the new survey distinguishes between design and assembly issues and dealer/shop-created issues.

5. Warranties and customer care

The original survey asked if a warranty paid for the repair. But it didn't distinguish between the orignal factory warranty and extended warranties. The new one does. This will help TrueDelta evaluate the quality of different extended warranties.

I've recently begun to wonder how much manufacturers vary in their willingness to provide out-of-warranty assistance. So the new form also lists this among the ways a repair can be paid for.

6. Description of the issue

The new form asks for a brief description of each issue. This will make it easier to check for errors in responses, while also providing additional details for members interested in knowing exactly what broke.

The end result of these changes is a form that's easier and less time-consuming to fill out, yet will provide us with even better information.

Thanks for reading.

Michael Karesh, TrueDelta

First posted: November 2, 2006
Last updated: November 17, 2006

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