Dealer Login

Mastering CSI Automotive Scores: Strategies for Fixed Ops Leaders

By Rob Bradshaw | Oct 26, 2023

Last updated on Jan 22, 2024

When you mention CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) in a car dealership, you’ll see sales and service personnel sit up a little straighter and pay attention. This metric is one that carries a lot of weight for dealers, and everyone is chasing a perfect score. 

But with industry norms out of whack (and there are plenty!), growing or even maintaining your CSI score can seem increasingly difficult. Sales and service teams both face challenges in serving customers through high interest rates, low inventory, inflated prices, parts scarcity and technician shortages.

Free Guide: 6 Ways to Boost Profitability, Performance & Service in Fixed Ops →

Why Every Dealership Should Care About CSI Scores

Most recently, the UAW strike has put a further strain on supply chains with workers being laid off and automotive facilities and parts distribution centers nationwide halting operations. As automakers finally started overcoming challenges from COVID, the strike will certainly have long-term effects on finding the normalcy we’ve all been looking for.

Dealerships are feeling the strain, but even in today’s climate, there are a number of opportunities to raise the bar on customer satisfaction and trust through the experiences we create with proactive, transparent communication, especially in the service lane.
Your customers' feedback is one of the most valuable resources your business can have.
Your customers’ feedback is one of the most valuable resources your business can have. With it, you can measure satisfaction, reveal areas of success and opportunity in your dealership, increase customer loyalty and optimize your operations. And best of all, it’s free information from the people who know your dealership best.

icon-tipCSI scores are powerful; they dictate your dealership's reputation in your market, determine how your OEM allocates inventory and resources to you, and contribute to your overall success.

So let’s talk about the strategies fixed operations leaders can implement to improve dealership CSI scores.

Elevating Your Automotive CSI Scores: Proven Strategies

Every customer-facing area of the dealership can impact your CSI score, but none has more touchpoints than the service drive. And despite navigating challenges that are out of your control – like supply chain disruptions, loaner availability and qualified staff shortages – you can still create exceptional customer experiences that boost CSI.

5 Focus Areas to Positively Influence CSI

  • icon-conversationCommunication – does your service team utilize technology like text messaging, mobile app or emails to provide regular service updates to keep customers informed?

  • iconthumbsQuality of Service – is your team ensuring all vehicles are thoroughly serviced according to customer requests and any other needs that arise during the walk around or evaluation?

  • icon-customer-loyaltyService Advisors – are your advisors providing friendly, helpful service and ensuring customers understand the work being done to their vehicles and the timeline and costs for those services?

  • icon-dealership-01Facility Conditions – is the environment in your service drive clean, welcoming and safe? Do you provide a comfortable waiting area for customers and amenities like coffee and free Wi-Fi while they wait?

  • icon-additional-protection-productsConvenience and Added Services – do you offer services like online scheduling and picking up vehicles from customers’ homes or workplaces?

Doing these things will go a long way to build trust and consumer confidence, which will naturally increase CSI scores. And the benefits can be significant, especially for dealers whose OEMs are impacted by the strike and the downstream effects from suppliers.

icon-tipThe key here is to train your teams to provide customers with the best possible experience, be transparent about timelines and understand that frustrations over delays, lack of parts and low inventory impact customers just as much as they do your dealership.

If you haven’t yet, it’s time to modernize your fixed operations strategies to meet the needs of today’s dealership customer.

Free Guide: 6 Ways to Boost Profitability, Performance & Service in Fixed Ops →

How Communication Improves Service Department Performance

Effective communication is a critical skill for service advisors to possess as they serve as the liaison between your technicians and your customers. Greeting people with a positive attitude makes a great first impression, and building on that by keeping customers informed and being equipped with the skills to navigate challenging situations should they arise. Those skills can mean the difference between a negative encounter and a loyal customer.

Keeping customers informed and engaged throughout the service process builds trust and increases their overall satisfaction. It should be standard practice to communicate with your customers about what services are being performed, provide realistic estimates on completion time and be upfront about costs. Doing that well reduces confusion and enables your team to operate at peak efficiency.

As a leader in fixed operations, the success of your team relies on open communication, and it is important to provide clear direction, set expectations and actively listen to your team. Transparent communication with customers is just as critical, as it can have a major impact on their level of satisfaction with your service lane and their decision to return to your dealership in the future.

The Role Technology and Data Play in Your Dealership CSI Surveys

Customers expect to have a seamless experience, and many will pay a premium for convenience, so make sure your fixed ops team can deliver on that promise to keep people coming back. One way to help ensure that is to enable timely communication from your technicians to the advisors and then to the customers and back again. A connected tech stack is the ultimate tool in making this possible.

Dealership systems must work together to share updated diagnostic information with your service advisors so they can connect with customers on the status of their vehicle.

Without this, you risk creating internal and external communication challenges, which stand in the way of efficiency and productivity. By aligning your technology, you can eliminate the confusion.

Utilizing technology to ensure information passes from one team to another creates clarity, boosts efficiency and can support optimizing your ELR.

Service advisors should be empowered and educated on how to quickly and easily read a repair order and explain the recommendations from technicians to vehicle owners. Utilizing technology to ensure information passes from one team to another creates clarity, boosts efficiency and can support optimizing your effective labor rate. And of course, a seamless process internally leads to elevated customer experiences and high marks on your CSI surveys after the service appointment.

Common Questions Fixed Operations Leaders Ask to Boost CSI Survey Scores

Most OEMs conduct CSI surveys on behalf of their dealerships, and there are a number of third parties that share performance data on surveys they conduct independently. With a number of sources to draw from, there are some common questions leaders often ask:

How do I take action on Customer Satisfaction Index data?

CSI surveys are a good way to get an overall benchmark on customer satisfaction and know where you’re falling short or surpassing expectations. The key is to look for themes that persist in the data and act on those. If you are getting consistently low scores in one area, look to see if you need to provide training or resources to get your team up to speed. At the same time, reward areas that score above average to encourage more great work. CSI scores should not be used to judge individual performance or take negative action for low numbers.

How can we address the negative factors impacting our business (UAW strike, inflation, interest rates, etc.) that we have no control over?

The key here is to find the opportunity in the challenge – having a growth mindset will put you ahead of the curve every time. With more touchpoints in the service drive due to customers keeping vehicles longer, you have the chance to appropriately upsell during appointments: replacing aging parts, vehicle conditioning, and offering after-market warranties on vehicles are revenue generators that can also help improve the ownership experience and customer satisfaction.

How often should we adjust our CSI improvement strategies to ensure they stay relevant and effective?

Regularly adjusting your strategies is crucial in ensuring they remain relevant and effective. However, you must stick with a plan long enough to be able to measure its success. We recommend reviewing at least every six months, taking into account any changes in customer expectations, market trends and dealership operations. This allows you to identify areas of improvement and adjust your approach accordingly.

Continuous Improvement: The Heart of Superior Customer Service

Capitalizing on CSI survey data is crucial for the success of any automotive dealership. Despite industry challenges, Fixed Ops leaders can improve CSI scores by focusing on quality service, effective communication, technology integration and adapting to changing customer expectations.

To continue building on your success and finding more pathways to growth on the fixed operations side of the business, providing ongoing training, access to resources and career path opportunities will help keep your teams engaged.

In turn, your staff will be better equipped to serve your customers, more satisfied in their roles, and perform at peak efficiency. Continuing to listen to your customers, ask and respond to their feedback, as well as investing in your teams and your service facilities will help ensure lasting loyalty through all the ebbs and flows of the automotive industry. 

Find new paths to revenue in your service drive - Download Now