Automotive Service Managers Focus on CSI Scores by:Steve Hosaflook
The current economic recession has been very difficult for the country's automotive dealerships. New and used car dealerships have suffered a significant decrease in sales. This combined with significant problems within the credit market and recent bankruptcy actions within the automotive manufacturing industry have sent shock waves through dealerships everywhere.
During difficult times, it is often necessary for dealerships to get "back to basics." The overall structure and health of the global economy is something that is out of a dealer's control. This will often leave a dealership's employees feeling helpless and frustrated. To combat these feelings and make positive strides for your dealership, it is often necessary to start small and make a concrete improvement to your dealership.
Let's take improving the CSI scores for a dealership's service department as an example. We all know that providing excellent customer service is important. We are often reminded just how important it is during an economic downturn. When dealerships are selling cars and service departments are very busy, it is often customer service that suffers. But in today's economic climate, with customer traffic down, it becomes an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate your customer service efforts.
In the service department, CSI scores have never been more important. Furthermore, studies have shown that new car warranty service is highly important. According to JD Power and associates, in their 2009 study, "those automakers whose dealers provide the highest levels of satisfaction during the warranty period retain a greater share of future service visits at the dealership, even after the warranty period expires. Brands with dealers that achieve particularly high CSI scores (800 or higher) during the first three years of vehicle ownership retained 79 percent of dollars spent on maintenance and repairs during the first five years of ownership."
No one likes less customer traffic, but a silver lining can be found if dealerships will seize this moment as an opportunity to provide the kind of service that will create lifetime customer loyalty. This type of action is what leads to tremendous success once the economy eventually turns around. What's more, it's quick and simple to get started.
Customer service is not complicated, but mastering it does take focus and practice. Often, the simplest things will make the biggest difference. Do you greet every customer with a smile? Do you smile when you talk to your customers on the phone? Smiles are free, and therefore some people don't put much value in their use. I would counter by asking, "How many of you would like to do business with someone who is constantly scowling?"
Are your service writers listening appropriately? One of the most difficult aspects of communicating with another person is being able to listen proactively. Perfect communication between you and a customer might not result in perfect CSI scores, but terrible communication will often be met with terrible CSI scores. Although perfect communication may never be achieved, it should always be the goal. Service writers are experts in their field. Plus, they are in a position where customers are relying on their ability to communicate. This often results in a one way communication channel from the writer to the customer. It is imperative for service writers to constantly practice the art of active listening. If a writer effectively listens and asks precise follow up questions, CSI scores will improve as a direct result.
Are you capturing all of the customer's pertinent information? Most dealerships are equipped with state-of-the-art CRM tools. However, these tools are only effective if all of the customer's information is accurately captured. In other words, ask them for the correct information. Then, input it properly. This information is extremely valuable to the dealership and can be used at a later time for all types of marketing programs. If your dealership is lacking in this department there are numerous sources that will guide you in implementing an effective CRM system.
When a customer meets an employee of your dealership, that employee becomes the entire dealership in the customer's mind. If the encounter was a positive one, the customer will feel good about your dealership, and they will tell others about their experiences.
Because of the heavy customer interaction with service writers and managers, many dealerships implement daily and weekly customer service contests to keep their writers performing at their highest level. These contests often include recognition as well as monetary bonuses. If you want your employees to provide excellent customer service, it is important to incentivize them accordingly. Contests have a way of focusing an employee's actions and keeping them motivated.
Are your employees prompt with your customers? Promptness is another quality that is free and therefore often overlooked. A renewed focus on promptness can result in dramatic increases of your CSI scores. Are you calling the customer when you said you would? Are you following up on a customer's issue in a timely fashion? If not, refocus and begin again.
Customers are creatures of habit, and you want them continuously returning to your dealership. By using the current slow-down in new car sales to increase your customer service efforts, you will be ensuring that today's customer will become tomorrow's long term customer.
About the author
Steve Hosaflook is a contributor to ReconSpace.com, a community for automotive reconditioning professionals and their customers.