The Almighty Customer Satisfaction Index
The American Customer Satisfaction Index, or CSI, is an economic indicator that measures customer satisfaction in various business sectors. (Here, we’ll just be focusing on CSI scores as measured in car dealership experiences.) These scores are calculated by combining customer survey scores taken on different business attributes to create a single CSI score indicating overall customer satisfaction.
For a simple example: your car dealership might add the customer survey scores for responsiveness, sales process, and cleanliness, and divide that number by three to find your CSI score.
As we know, having a great CSI score is crucial in the automotive industry for several reasons. Often, CSI scores are tied to money from the manufacturer, and/or being awarded high-demand inventory. In this day of tight inventory availability, that in and of itself can be a big difference maker.
Additionally, we know the money in the service drive can be the lifeblood of a dealership. A positive Sales experience sets up that revenue stream in service and repeat sales. In other words, higher CSI scores can make you a more successful dealership.
It’s a positive feedback loop!
Measuring Customer Satisfaction & Customer Loyalty
For instance, Toyota has implemented the Toyota Loyalty & Engagement program (TLE) that categorizes customers according to their engagement level with your car dealership and focuses on helping improve the customer experience and, in turn, your CSI scores.
With a deep level of tracking past, present, and potential customer behaviors and patterns, their dealer personnel can focus on crafting the best customer experience possible for Sales, Service, and Parts.
Very helpful indeed!
3 Ways You Can Boost Your Dealership’s CSI Score
While there are several factors to an amazing customer experience, we believe that there are a few important core aspects:
- Unified voice
In this digital age, seamlessness is a default expectation. Potential customers expect and want smooth communication and processes. They also want you to be accessible and open; not doing so can make a customer suspicious of your reliability. And finally, a unified voice in your organization contributes to seamlessness and accessibility. Consistent training, policies, and practices will show your customers that your dealership is in great working order.
Here are three ways your dealership can easily showcase and apply these core principles to contribute to higher CSI scores, and in turn, higher retention rates and loyalty.
1. Engage Your Customers Online.
Digital engagement should certainly be considered for your dealership website. If considered, this engagement should take many forms as not every shopper wants to engage in the same way, and customers are often at different stages in their buying experience.
Live messaging on your website is one of the easiest ways to offer personal, digital engagement to your customers. Active and curious car shoppers can chat with highly-trained, live agents (ours are called CEEs, or Customer Engagement Experts; and for good reason!) to have their questions answered, their needs met, and kick off an excellent customer experience.
Allowing customers to connect with your dealership from the comfort of their homes or on the run keeps sales engagement high and reduces the number of dropped leads. Car shoppers are real people with busy lives, and researching a car is historically a pretty long and involved process. And, equally important to mention, is that it is a very emotional process as well.
Live chat allows customers to ask the vehicle questions important to them and feel in control of the relationship from the start before they step onto your sales floor. And, you should strive to have your in-store buying experience accurately reflect your online processes.
Automotive industry professionals, specializing in automotive retail specifically, call this approach "connected retailing." It helps reduce friction customers might feel in their transition from working with you on a digital basis, to actually coming into your dealership.
A quality human interaction at the start builds trust and allows them to feel at ease moving forward with you. Anything you can do to make the research phase faster, easier, and/or less stressful will make your customer's experience greater, and they'll be more likely to buy from you and potentially net you a higher CSI score.
Digital engagement shouldn’t stop at the research stage. A recent Cox study shows that shoppers who complete at least half of the buying process online feel more satisfied with their purchase and have more trust in the deal they got. Dealers who offer an online retailing option need to make sure their customers can get seamless assistance during that process, too.
This is a big one. Car buyers aren't familiar with the process and have questions about the next steps, financing, and specials. Each shopper has a unique customer journey that should be assessed and considered.
A well-trained, live team should be there to advocate for both the customer and your dealership during the daunting purchase journey.
2. Offer Online Service Scheduling.
A great, human-assisted online service scheduling option can make everyone’s lives so much easier when it comes to the service department of your dealership. With concierge service scheduling, ActivEngage sets fixed ops appointments that are sent directly to your dealership’s service scheduling platform (we integrate with XTime, Blackbird by DealerSocket, and Time Highway).
What’s more, ActivEngage’s industry professionals are trained to handle online conversations with your fixed ops customers, considering their needs and concerns to take the best course of action. They help customers book the type of appointment they need, review their history to encourage related services, and are trained to upsell. These considerations can lift repair orders by an average of 30%!
No dealership should overlook the convenience of conducting online service scheduling to assist your online customers. This ability is one of your dealership's best ways to boost its CSI score and treat customers to a great customer experience. ActivEngage can help you manage your online service scheduling by offering human guidance where a static form would usually be.
3. Pay Attention to Your Reviews.
Viewing and addressing customer reviews is critical to business success and a consistently great CSI score, but only 33% of car dealers actively manage their online review listings. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t fix it!
Receiving direct customer feedback can allow your dealership to respond to problems better. It’s important to hear both positive and negative reviews so that you can make improvements where necessary and continue with what’s working well.
For instance, if you’re browsing reviews on a public forum and you come across a complaint, it is vital you respond to that complaint professionally, offering to help the customer resolve their issue and provide a way for them to contact you for further details. It is also equally as important to respond to glowing reviews: you want people to see that you appreciate their business and are eager to interact with customers positively!
Good ratings are essential — 60% of automotive customers choose dealerships based on reputation, and 89% of consumers seek online reviews before purchasing any product or service. Perception is EVERYTHING, and it's crucial to an awesome CSI score.
Make It Easy to Submit CSI Surveys
Now that you have the methods in place, you'll also want to make it easy for a customer to complete a CSI survey. This could be as easy as setting up a fast system to do so with tablets or a link the customer can access on their phone then and there.
You may also consider incentivizing leaving a positive CSI survey with service coupons, or money-off offers. Promoting the quick and easy completion of CSI surveys just gives your community more reasons to trust you, and choose you, and helps your customer experience have a greater impact.
ActivEngage is Your CSI Score Boosting Secret Weapon
If your CSI score is in the pits or just isn’t where you’d like it to be, looking for ways to improve it can seem daunting. ActivEngage provides the tools you need to improve customer satisfaction rates and CSI scores and offer the unified, seamless, and accessible solutions the modern customer needs. Such as:
- Managed Messaging, to engage and retain your digital shoppers.
- MyDrive, virtual test drives and vehicle overviews in chat.
- RetailSync, live guidance through digital retailing processes.
Due to the current global circumstances (you know the ones), vehicle selection is low and prices are high. New car buyers are inelastic about pricing, more willing to order/travel to secure their perfect ride, and are spending less time shopping around.
Consumers reported spending less time researching and shopping for a car online during the pandemic:
"In total, consumers spent about 7 hours and 14 minutes shopping online for a car in 2020. That’s down from 9 hours and 29 minutes in 2019. Buyers of new cars spent even less time, at 5 hours and 34 minutes last year, down from 6 hours 44 minutes in 2019." (Source)
While these new auto industry buying trends are great for your bottom line, you need to make sure you’re upping your customer experience game to match the rising prices. Though people are willing to pay the increased market prices, ensuring their customer loyalty and a perfect CSI evaluation is a different challenge in today's market; and a very important one. One that could hold your dealership's reputation in the balance.
Maintaining and improving CSI scores are essential to capturing market share in your PMA (Primary Marketing Area) and beyond.