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How to Improve Your CSI – and Make it Last!

Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have almost become the holy grail for automotive retailers in today’s competitive, customer-centric world.

The general public is so savvy nowadays that they often won’t go anywhere near a retailer or service provider unless it has a top rating and feedback. So how do you go about improving your CSI score so that you stand the best chance of attracting those conquest customers, whilst retaining your existing ones long-term.

The first thing to remember is that both CSI and NPS are outcomes of your team’s actions and processes, they are not an end in themselves. They are often clear indicators of wider, complex issues in your business and are largely a reflection and measure of your organisational culture. Therefore in order to affect these ratings you have to go right back to basics and diagnose any issues which impact them. If you just go down the route of trying to increase the score itself you may have some marginal effect but it might not be substantial or lasting.

Secondly you have to remember that customer satisfaction is a direct outcome of employee satisfaction. If your employees are unhappy what chance do you stand of them making your customers happy? So if you want to achieve fantastic scores where do you begin?

Step one is to demonstrate a clear commitment to employee satisfaction from the very top. The GM or dealer principal must be totally committed to providing an outstanding working environment. This means placing it as a priority above all else. Start by doing a 360 degree appraisal with your employees, carried out on a confidential, anonymous basis. Get the issues on the table from the start and address them. Ask your colleagues: “do you really enjoy working here and why?” And more importantly, if they could change three things what would they be? Of course you are always going to invite the usual gripes about salary, working hours etc. but just asking the question and addressing some of their concerns shows that you care and that you are investing in them. Most employees who state they are happy at work are so because of a range of factors such as their working environment, colleagues or their work routine. It’s a myth that their number one priority is salary.

Staff involvement and action plan: You need to meet regularly and have specific customer satisfaction meetings. Start by breaking down the individual components of what provides great service in your dealership, but also the things which have detracted from it. There may be hundreds of things on your list but just focus on a couple each month and create some specific actions to address them. Don’t try to tackle everything all at once because nothing will get done. These sessions help communication considerably but they can also diffuse issues and stop them building into major problems later on. Internal communication between departments is the key here. Also be clear about ownership. A customer isn’t a service customer or a sales customer they are the dealership’s customer and should be treated as such by any of your staff they come into contact with.

Decide your USP (Unique Selling Point): What is going to differentiate you from your competitors? If like most retailers you are located in Motor City or Motor Alley your customers have a choice. Do your research and try it yourselves by visiting a few dealers? Although there may be some slight demarcations the customer experience often doesn’t differ greatly from one dealer to another. Therefore you need to put a concerted effort into defining your dealer USP. Why should a customer visit and buy from you rather than any of your competitors? Involve all your staff in this, keep it simple and clear and make sure everyone understands it and lives it. The great thing is that it doesn’t take much to differentiate yourself from other dealers but your proposition does need to be creative and unique – and I’m not just talking about a bunch of flowers and a birthday card for the wife when you deliver a car.

Handling complaints: Make sure your response to customer complaints is excellent. This will not only dilute the impact of any negatives on your CSI score but will also give you the opportunity to nip larger issues in the bud. Treat complaints personally and address them accordingly. Complaints should be viewed as a positive opportunity because the customer is giving you the chance to put things right and if properly treated they can be your biggest advocates. It’s the ones who don’t complain and just quietly fade away to your competitors that are your main concern!

Staff recruitment and dismissal: How you treat, recruit and even dismiss people is of primary importance and has a direct impact on your CSI. I have worked with dealers who have either parted with staff on bad terms or not even bothered to reply to unsuccessful applicants for jobs. You have to remember that, like customers, they will tell others about their experience with your business – people who are your likely future customers. They may even be future customers themselves, so do all you can to retain them as brand advocates even if you don’t want to employ them. The great thing about providing an excellent customer is that it doesn’t really cost anything to provide it. It’s about establishing the right culture in your business and developing a consistent attitude of mind across all your staff. The answer to improving your CSI score long-term lies with them and their satisfaction. Get this right and your levels of customer satisfaction will automatically improve.

Remember: Employee Satisfaction = Customer Satisfaction. So get your own house in order first.

ABOUT CARL GREGORY

Carl joined RTS Group in 2013 as Head of Mazda Academy, and is now Account Director, managing the relationship with our clients to ensure they have a great customer experience. He works in partnership with clients and colleagues to maximise our clients’ return on expectation and return on investment, so adding tangible commercial value to their businesses. Carl describes himself as “passionate”, so he is perfectly suited to his role.

Before joining us, Carl had a long and successful career in the automotive sector, including several academy headships and managing a dealership in Germany. He was also European training manager for Volvo Trucks in Sweden.

Carl has two sons, and in his spare time his passion extends to football – he commentates on England football matches for the online Champions Soccer Radio Network which broadcasts in the US.