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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Got Happy Customers? Find Out with CSI


Got Happy Customers? Find Out with CSI

by Dusty Dunkle, Vice President of Customer Research, Inc.

Wouldn’t life be grand if you had perfect processes in place within every sector of your business, if all your employees were loyal, motivated, hardworking, and efficient—and if they carried out your flawless processes with precision, accuracy, and confidence? You could count on having very happy customers! They might be so pleased that they become “customers for life,” spreading their satisfaction and your flawless reputation all over town. Your vehicle sales would go up and your service department would thrive!

You may think this scenario sounds like a dream, but it could come true for you if you make use of a first-class Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) follow-up system. Sales and service customer follow-up results will provide the information you need to implement the proper processes and fine-tune employee performance. You can use the information to set standards and establish a measuring stick to maintain them. Without a follow-up program in place, you will be unaware of most customer complaints. If you don’t know about them, you will have no chance to resolve them, and you may find it is impossible to retain customers who had a poor experience at your service center.

The vast majority of upset customers won’t complain to you. Most of them will simply avoid confrontation, go away mad and take their business with them. According to Technical Assistance Research Programs of Washington, D.C., for every customer who complains to you, another 26 won't. It costs ten times as much to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it’s imperative to keep the ones you have, happy.

Remember that your number-one customer is your competitor’s number-one prospect. After only one negative experience at your shop, any customer can leave you for your competition and never return. Give yourself the chance to retain every single customer by making sure you know about each instance of dissatisfaction.

You’ve probably heard the statistic that when a customer is dissatisfied, he or she will tell 14 to 17 other people how unhappy they are. According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, if you just listen to an upset customer’s problem without taking any action to resolve it, they will tell only seven people of their dissatisfaction. If you listen and attempt to solve the problem, even if your effort is unsuccessful, they will tell no one that they are dissatisfied. Finally, if you listen and then actually solve the problem, that customer will tell five people how effective you are! This compares favorably with customers who didn’t have a problem in the first place; they will tell three people, on the average, how happy they are with their good service experience!

When a customer has a complaint you must be certain to have a tool in place to uncover the problem and you must have a process ready to resolve it. If both of these requirements are met you can begin to view customer dissatisfaction as an opportunity rather than a problem.

After understanding the importance of customer follow-up, the next step is to determine which method to use and the best way to implement it. Telephone follow-up is proven to be the most effective, allowing you to reach the highest number of customers and gather the most feedback. Mail and e-mail surveys are other options, but typically they produce a survey return rate of less than 10%, compared to completed telephone survey rates that can surpass 80%.

Telephone follow-up will have a major impact on your customer retention and customer loyalty, and you will have the ability to address more customer complaints before they escalate. In addition, more CSI-sensitive customers will receive a follow-up. Customers must be educated that the survey is extremely important, serves as a report card, and anything less than the best possible rating is complete failure. This should be a conversation, not just a script, and it must come from the heart, while still maintaining the customer’s undivided attention. If the follow-up is completed each day, a high contact percentage is maintained, and if the survey information is properly communicated, CSI should skyrocket! Major influences on raising CSI are resolving dissatisfaction and and getting more top box responses on future surveys.

If you decide to follow-up with your customers by telephone, you might want to consider the many benefits of outsourcing to third-party follow-up specialists. You will save time and money while you reap the benefits of higher contact percentages. Your survey results will be completely unbiased, and your customers will really open up to professionally trained, third-party interviewers. You will receive detailed summary CSI reports, and most importantly, your follow-up will always get done.

How could an outside company possibly be less expensive than in-house follow-up? One reason is that many research companies utilize rapid dialing technology that is approximately three times more efficient than manual telephone dialing done in-house. A nationwide study analyzing service department telephone follow-up proves that one individual manually dialing would be required to call uninterrupted for nearly 2 hours in order to make contact with one customer who was not completely satisfied with their service experience. That customer problem could provide priceless information, but this follow-up process quickly becomes time-consuming and expensive.

In-house telephone follow-up is hard work, but the majority of the labor consists of dialing number after number, reaching answering machines, and shuffling paper. In addition to the hourly rate, taxes, benefits, and other costs associated with in-house follow-up include desk space, equipment, long-distance fees, supervision, and turnover - which includes advertising, interviewing, and training. You will also be required to produce a customer list or an extra copy of every repair order and safeguard them to make sure employees are not “cherry picking” specific customers.

If you pay an employee to make calls during normal business hours, they will complete an average of five to six surveys per hour. If they concentrate on weekday evenings and Saturdays, they will complete an average of seven to eight per hour. These statistics apply to uninterrupted dialing and using a survey with five to eight questions along with a short script. Companies that utilize rapid dialing technology can average more than 20 completed surveys per hour. In addition, these calls are normally concentrated during peak hours when people are most likely to be available to complete a survey. Thanks to technology, outsourcing follow-up these days is extremely cost-efficient, with faster turnaround times than in-house programs.

Some repair shops consider in-house follow-up for the ability to solve problems immediately on the initial call to the customer. For this to be successful, a high-level employee with vast knowledge of your operation and great customer service skills must always be available to make the calls. This employee must also have the authority to formulate a resolution plan on the spot and the accountability to make sure the job gets done right. When outsourcing to a first class follow-up company, you receive customer feedback immediately, and your employee is freed up to handle only the customers that require attention. They can formulate a thoughtful response, rather than make shotgun decisions, as they focus on tasks most directly suited to the nature of your business.

Many times in-house follow-up becomes a “side job” that is picked up only when everything else is finished. This can result in telephone follow-up not getting done at all. As you know, this is not going to work if you care about retaining each and every one of your customers.

If you decide to use an independent company to conduct follow-up, make sure their program covers all the bases. At a minimum, they should:

  • Have experience in automotive telephone follow-up along with a good reputation
  • Make at least 5 attempts to each customer, including Saturday attempts
  • Provide follow-up results immediately in an electronic format (web and/or e-mail)
  • Provide call activity documentation for all customers (contacts and non-contacts)
The most important aspect of customer satisfaction telephone follow-up is the quality of the people making the calls. They must be professional, courteous, warm, kind, and they must represent your business in the best possible manner. When every customer is treated with the utmost respect, your customers will understand that their opinions are valued and that you really do care.

Regardless of how you choose to follow-up with your customers, make sure it is a consistent part of your business plan. Follow-up is not just an added expense, it is an investment. The return to you will be a large and loyal customer base and a great reputation.



Customer Research, Inc. has been a provider of Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) telephone follow-up service for the automotive industry since 1967. To learn more click here.

Visit WORLDPAC Customer Marketing Solutions (CMS) to learn more about additional services available.

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