I know I have covered this before, but why is it that when we carry out our own customer satisfaction inquiry, the percentage return is always higher than when the manufacturer does it, and the percentage who are completely satisfied is much higher?. Why is it that when we have given free hire cars, free car washes, free collection and delivery, free coffees, reduced MOT’s, budget services, free flowers, etc etc, that customers today do not get excited about the service we give?.

The problem is that 12 months ago, those things did create customer delight, now they are just taken for granted, so we need to find something innovational that will cost little, but have a huge impact.

On average I am staying in hotels two or three nights a week, and more often than not, I am asked to complete a feed back questionnaire. Only if I am dissatisfied or delighted do I complete the questionnaire. If I have received value for money, ie: I am satisfied, then I do not bother to fill them in.

However what does bug me is when I have completed the form no one writes back to me to say thanks, we have made a note of your comments, even a two line hand written thanks note on a complements slip would have been more than enough or even a quick email.

Having said all that, there are two ways that you can look at it, if you are working on your CSI just to get your bonus, well yes, at the time of the hand over of a car or the service invoice your employees can say, “now you will be getting a call from our manufacturer, it may be on the phone or a questionnaire it will look something like this and therefore is there anything that I could have done better” I guess that goes a bit of the way to priming the customer to please you and respond positively to any approach for their comments.

However in my opinion “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless” Customer Loyalty is Priceless” CSI stands for Customer Supplies Income, which means they pay our wages, therefore should not be looked upon as something we must do to obtain bonuses but should be actively developed to retain our customers, and develop them to spending their money with us for their motoring needs now and in the future.

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What is a good customer? One, who is with us for life, uses all our services and encourages their family and friends to do the same.

How do we create this relationship that will give us good customer retention and create customer delight?. How can we rise above the crowd and be different to the average dealership.

Well I guess it all starts at the point of sale. The Meet & Greet, the Qualification, the Selling of the Benefits whether it is selling cars, service or parts, its about developing a relationship with the customer, what is important to him or her about the service you are about to give, not what is important to you.

So lets get back to the point in question, what can we do to improve our CSI to create a memory in customers minds that the service we gave them was special and delighted them rather than just satisfied them.

No 1 – The first thing we must do is to create an innovation team from all departments, who every Friday investigate come back jobs, customer complaints, and more important employee complaints, as CSI starts with all employees being happy, if the team is happy they will give quality customer care, if they have just had a telling off then forget it customers will pick up the vibes immediately. ( If a member of staff does require disciplining then do it 5pm Friday night not 9am Monday morning).

No 2 – Programme customers coming in for service at different times, 20 customers coming in between 8am and 9.30am are only accommodated, they are never sold to, service advisors never have time to exchange the time of day never mind sell on. (When will my car be ready? Give us a ring at 2pm and I will see what I can do, NEXT!!).

No 3 – Try to qualify customers more on the telephone, get as much information as you can to save time when they arrive at the desk, have the job card ready filled in just to qualify if there is anything else that is needed.

No 4 – When customers have just signed up for a new car, give them the hand book for them to read so they know all about the car before they come to collect it, in the case of used cars, give them a blank warranty book with an option to up grade, they will read it before collecting the car, they will not read it after taking delivery.

No 5 – Once the customer has signed up take them round the dealership, introduce them to each department, at each department, they are given a small item to make up a car care kit, such as a pair of mechanics rubber gloves and a hand wipe to put on the spare wheel in the event of punctures, sponge and leather from parts department and say a car shampoo from the body shop.

From experience I know that this is the time when you need to impress the customer most, when he comes to collect his car, he or she just wants to drive away. They are not listening about how the controls work, or the warranty, or the names of the reception team.

No 6 – After 30 days an invitation back to the dealership (bring a friend) for an evening with the staff, also creates customer loyalty, these take the form of a walk round the dealership, showing off our parts department, our high tech workshop equipment. Maybe a chat about the positioning of the head rests, seats for safety, regarding ABS and air bags. If possible demonstrate an air bag going off, this really does make the evening.

Let us show the difference between a genuine oil filter and the cheap ones by cutting one in half and letting customers inspect it, lets talk about the importance of checking oil levels especially now with service intervals being up to 20000 miles, lets show them how to change a bulb, and the need for brake flushes.

If we just got into the habit of going that extra mile by inviting last months customers who bought from us, back in, even if they do not come they will know that we care.

While there is no substitute for getting it right 1st time, on time, every time, the motoring public are becoming more informed and demanding therefore we must change with them. The long face in reception of a stressed out service manager or service advisor will do nothing for your CSI no matter how you try, the phones ringing more than three times before being answered, does not give the customer the impression that there is an urgency about the way you do business.

What ever happens do not give up, customer retention has to be the main priority of our business, it is 5 times easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to sell to a new one.

Maybe we need to devote some of our marketing spend in this area.