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Where does your shop's CSI begin?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 00:00
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Richard Forness
We all know that customer satisfaction drives business. But did you know that your customer satisfaction index (CSI) can rise or fall long before you even start fixing the customer's car? In terms of overall CSI, your first interaction with your customer factors in at two times the weight of the final quality of the repair.

Whether writing an estimate or selling and retaining a job, how do you approach your customer? Think of the process as a cycle that starts with the customer's first point of contact with your shop and ends with their keys in your hands and their vehicle in your shop ready to be repaired.

I recently was asked to speak on "estimating as sales and estimating system logic" at a collision repair trade show in Wisconsin. In preparing my presentation, I came across a few interesting facts. A study was conducted in 2010 by a major CSI firm with more than 25,000 responses directly related to customer satisfaction in collision repair and insurance claims. One thing jumped off the page at me: 24 percent of the vehicle owners' overall satisfaction was directly related to the first interaction with the insurance company.

While you may not agree, I believe this statistic transfers directly to the collision shop's first interaction with the customer. The old expression – always make a good first impression – holds true, and in this case it is statistically proven. As a matter of fact, the first interaction carried more weight with customers in the study than the repair and estimating processes combined.

Today, people expect quality for their money and they are quick to make decisions about who they do business with. Think about what this means: how you greet the customer on the phone or when they walk into your business is almost one quarter of your final customer satisfaction score. In today's market, can you afford to lose even one job, let alone start in the hole on your CSI score because you haven't seriously evaluated the way your business interacts with its customers right from the start?

I am a huge proponent of continuing education and constant business process system improvement, but equally important to your business is how you interact you're your prospective customers. Even if you are the primary estimator, have you objectively critiqued this process? If not, it's time to assess your customer's experience. Get an outside opinion, hire a secret shopper or have a friend or business associate arrange to shop your business.

Make sure you have a control value: get your shopper to visit several collision shops as a frame of reference. After the shop visits occur, drill down into the experience with a standard set of questions. Rank the curb appeal of the shop and the cleanliness of the lobby, as well as the attentiveness of employees and how long it took for the customer to be greeted. Was your staff on the phone or with another customer at the time? Did the shopper feel like they were being listened to and helped through the process? And finally, what was their overall impression and would they recommend your shop in the future?

When all the sources are added up, more than 85 percent of your business is from a repeat customer or referral. Consider all the points that you interact with the customer as a cycle, from the first hello to the thank you for your business as they drive off. Manage the process and set standards for how to greet the customer and answer the phone, and never forget to keep the customer updated throughout the process. Use the technology available today to keep the customer in the loop, and communicate by their best choice of communication, whether it's phone, text, e-mail or live online updates on your shop's website. Use all of the tools available in your toolbox to build a stronger customer experience and leverage that experience to drive more business into your front door.

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