Want A 5-star CSI Rating? Demanding It Doesn’t Work. Earning It Does.

When my friend, Erica* took her vehicle to the dealer recently, the needed repairs were performed quickly and competently. Yet, when the CSI survey came, she rated her overall experience three stars: “just okay.” Why not five stars: “excellent”? Well, because frankly, they didn’t earn it. This was the result of a couple very significant––and avoidable––hassles. For one, transportation both to and from the dealership was mishandled. Then, at the end of the visit, the advisor insisted Erica rate the experience five stars on the forthcoming survey. Here is her story, along with my notes on what could have been done to earn those five stars.

Three-star experience: inefficient check-in, mishandled transportation options
Erica called ahead to book her service, but when she arrived in the service bay, she had to reiterate the details of what was needed. And unfortunately, the most crucial information lost in the shuffle was her need to get to work by 9:00am. The staff member who scheduled Erica’s service over the phone declined to offer her the loaner she requested, and instead assured her that the shuttle would get her to work on time. However, after arriving for her appointment a few minutes early, she was told the shuttle had already left for the morning.

This put Erica in a tough position—and rather than her advisor acknowledging the mistake, he offered her coffee and donuts in the service lounge and suggested she wait a couple of hours for her car to be done. Though she again made it clear that she couldn’t wait, her frustration was brushed off, and she was offered no alternative. At this point, Erica decided to call a Lyft so she wouldn’t be late to work.

After informing her advisor that she had called a ride, Erica was prompted to sign the RO, and noticed her email address had been recorded incorrectly. Lucky for the dealership, she noticed and corrected it, otherwise she could have been a lost lead. So, a quick signature and $20 of her own money later, she arrived at work.

Five-star fix: more attention to detail, going the extra mile
What could have been done before and during check-in to make this a 5-star experience rather than a hassle? Let’s start with the scheduling process: Erica should have received a loaner when she requested one. Regardless of why she did not receive one, she should have at least been accommodated by the shuttle as promised. Having the proper scheduler that can delegate transportation options for your customers is key to ensuring their requests haven’t been forgotten—and they’ve been accounted for.

Better yet, her dealership could have arranged and paid for her Lyft (or at least reimbursed her for it). More and more retailers are offering options like this through service like Red Cap Valet. Doing so lessens the need for loaners and takes some of the responsibility away from the dealer. In addition, a digital check-in tool would have made the process easier for both the advisor and the customer. The advisor would be able to check Erica in right away, document pre-existing vehicle conditions, and even offer service menu options on the spot. But most importantly, staff would be able to accommodate the customer in a way that makes vehicle drop-off simple and painless.

Three-star experience: delayed pickup


After talking to the advisor over the phone and agreeing to an added repair, Erica was told her vehicle would be ready at 2:00pm. A short while later, the shuttle driver called and confirmed a 2:00pm pickup. Yet, at 2:15, Erica received a call from the driver saying he’d be at least another 30 minutes due to weather issues (though it was a pleasant, 75-degree Florida day). Irritation growing, Erica mentioned she would take another Lyft back to the dealership to pick up her vehicle. The driver assured her he’d be there sooner. Erica gave in, and waited 40 minutes for pick-up from the shuttle.

Five-star fix: put your customer’s needs above your own


Of course, the fix here is directly related to the recommendations above: give the customer transportation options and manage their choice accordingly, and be sure to have the right check-in tool to access appointment details or offer other necessary services. If Erica had the loaner she initially requested or if the dealer used a valet service or another customer-focused option, it would have been a game-changer. Instead of getting to work late and frustrated, she would’ve arrived on time and happy––and most likely, a 5-star rating would’ve been in the bag.

Three-star experience: the advisor’s uncomfortable request
Once Erica finally arrived back at the dealership for checkout, her experience took another unexpected turn. While going over her RO, her advisor instructed her to leave a five-star rating. He said something to the effect of, “Now make sure to leave me five stars. The way the survey is set up, I’ll get in trouble if you leave anything less. If you have any feedback, you can leave those in the comments area and it won’t affect my score.”

Five-star fix: earn your CSI rating
Now, we know that transparency is one of the keys to growing customer trust in a dealership. However, the advisor was perhaps a little too transparent and presumptuous in his request. Considering the experience Erica had, I was surprised to hear the advisor had suggested a five-star rating in the first place. Asking the customer to give their dealership a high survey rating (“coaching”) is more than frowned upon, it can bring consequences from the OEM. So, rather than guide the conversation in a direction that only benefitted them, the advisor should have focused on making up for the hassles Erica endured—be it by offering perks/discounts towards her next service, or at the very least, an apology. Instead, she was left with a poor impression of the advisor, and the dealership as a whole.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: five-star experiences are earned, not demanded. And providing one to each and every customer can be as simple as listening to their unique set of circumstances and going the extra mile to provide what they need. J.D Power found that the percentage of customers who feel their service advisor provides helpful advice is 70 points higher when the advisor was focused on them and their needs during the visit. So, you’d be wise to make this your goal. That way, you’ll give customers the experience they expect and achieve the CSI scores—and customer loyalty—you’re looking for.

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