Between reliable borrowers who promptly pay back their debts and deadbeats who don’t is a middle group struggling with past-due car-loan payments.

They are people who want to keep up with their monthly car payments but stumble with their personal finances for various reasons.

Lenders like people who repay debts on time and come down hard on car-loan defaulters, who can expect repos and rotten credit reports.

But many lenders extend special treatment to those delinquent borrowers who want to find a way to make good on their car loans.

Hyundai Capital America, serving 1,500 Hyundai and Kia dealerships, has overhauled its operations to, among other things, better serve and work with well-intended but imperfect debtors.

The changes came after a critical review of how some things were done, says Jason Kraus, the captive lender’s director-business systems.

“We looked at what happened when a customer called, and it was pretty eye-opening,” he says during a presentation, “Reinventing the Customer Experience,” at a recent Thought Leadership Summit in Los Angeles.

For example, he cites what use to happen when a customer called seeking a loan extension from the U.S. financing unit of the South Korean automaker.

Customer-service representatives fielding such queries had no immediate computer-screen access on whether they could grant extension requests or whether the caller had sought loan relief before.

“Manual efforts were involved,” Kraus says. “It had to be taken to a manager. We had to say, ‘We’ll have to call you back.’”

Now, customer-service agents are more empowered. They don’t have a carte blanche to say or do anything. But a software system provides them with a clear path to company policies.

“We built all the rules into the system,” Kraus says. “If (a service representative) tries to do something without following the rules, the system would tell them what route they needed to take.”

The revisions have led to a 64% improvement in offering payment-extension assistance. Call-center agents delivered markedly better service because they have access to more information on payment histories and the like.

Hyundai Capital holds about $15 billion in assets and serves more than 1 million customers. Changing how earnest-but-delinquent borrowers are treated is part of an overall operational revamping aimed at becoming more customer-centric.

“The goal is to become a leader in customer satisfaction,” Kraus says. “We want to demonstrate commitment by focusing on each customer interaction, exceed expectations and build relationships that will last a lifetime.”

A need for change was obvious, he says candidly.

“A few years ago, we sucked. Dealers and customers were complaining. Our website was bad. We had no idea what our satisfaction levels were, and we were sort of afraid to reach out and ask. Now, we do.”

Dealer beefs had centered on commercial-lending delays, such as inventory financing. “If you are not funding dealers quickly, they get mad,” Kraus says.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com