CSI is a waste of time. Everyone knows it. But nobody is willing to do
anything about it.
The idea behind CSI is right on: collect honest customer feedback so
dealership performance can be measured and customer loyalty can
be understood and improved upon. The problem is that the collected
feedback is not an honest representation, so the sample set of data is
tainted and not worth the paper it is printed on.
Dealers Cheat. OEMs Ignore. Repeat.
Plenty of dealers cheat on their CSI. Its not a secret, but the OEMs
ignore it. Sure, all OEMs have memos filled with rules, threats, and
consequences for cheating, but there is hardly ever any follow up. There
isn’t a Zone Manager in the country that wants to be the one whose
zone’s numbers tank because they enforce the rules. It’s easier to turn a
blind eye and keep the numbers looking good.
Unfortunately, as long as a few dealers are cheating, the program is
ruined for everyone. Furthermore, a few cheaters and OEM pressure
breeds more cheaters. Lets say your scores are honest, but a dealer
in your group is cheating. The bar is raised; even if your numbers are
good, they are not AS GOOD as your cheating competitor (there is no
bonus for honesty). You want to earn the Presidents Award so you give
a bonus to your Sales and Service Mangers to get CSI up. What do they
do? Offer free car washes or oil changes for good surveys, or increase
customer pressure with emails, letters, and phone calls begging for the
good survey. It gets results. The Zone Manger congratulates the dealer,
the dealer pays the bonus, and a President’s Award is won. Sadly, in the
current system cheating works, and once one dealer cheats, the data
pool is tainted and the pressure to cheat spreads.
What if the data was good?
If the survey data were clean (which it’s not), OEMs would report back
to the dealer what the customers said. This, theoretically, would help
the dealer improve, but do dealers really need that from the OEM?
I think the market is more efficient than the OEM at pointing out
dealer problems. If the shop doesn’t fix a car right the first time, the
Service Manager is more likely to get a phone call long before a survey is
completed. The survey doesn’t help the store; it’s just an OEM stick.
Even in the case where the customer didn’t call the store and the survey
was the only way to hear customer feedback, surveys take weeks to
collect, process, and share. So even if the data is “perfect” because of
the survey process, it’s stale before it reaches the dealership. Damage to
the brand is already done and difficult to repair. OEM surveys are slower
than the market; thus, even if the data is perfect, its power is dead by
the time anyone can act on it.
How OEMs could fix their CSI problems:
The solution to the problem is actually quite simple, but it requires a big
shift in thought process.
The OEMs need to publish online all CSI data for everyone, especially
customers, to see. A large effort needs to be made to let customers
know they can see and view dealership feedback— the good and bad—in
Providing such transparency would be very powerful in two ways. It
would send a powerful message to the customers that that the brand
cares, listens, and is genuinely interested in getting better. Also, it
would move the market. Unlike the current system that only helps
OEMs, this new system would actually help customers decide where to
buy. If customers don’t see the data, it doesn’t actually increase word
of mouth, so it’s simply an estimate of the likelihood you will get positive
word of mouth.
The best thing manufacturers could do with their CSI surveys is throw
them out and start over. They need to. Have the customers fill out
their survey directly online for everyone to view, and let’s see where the
market really moves.