Hold The Phones

Hold The Phones - How Technology Changed CSI

Fixed Ops Magazine

Over the past few years, you’ve experienced how technology and the Internet have changed the way you conduct day-to-day business in your dealership. I’d be willing to bet that just recently, someone--your manufacturer, a vendor--fed you another login and password for a web-based function.

All those passwords aside, technology helps us work faster and be more efficient. Now you can multitask like never before. You have 20 things going on outside your office and another 20 open on your computer desktop. Just for starters, let’s focus on how technology and the Internet changed the landscape of measuring customer satisfaction in the automotive industry, and how you can benefit from it.

My company has been conducting customer satisfaction telephone follow-up in the automotive industry since 1967. Believe me, we've made many changes over the years. Back in the day, we conducted our telephone surveys with agents working from their homes. We mailed repair orders back and forth, and our clients would eventually receive the completed surveys. The total turnaround time was never less than four days.

Then computers, fax machines, and modems speeded things up. With more new advances in technology, we were able to move to a Windows-based call center. Soon we began planning for the biggest revolution yet. The Internet would change our business practices, our processes, and our procedures. It also allowed our regional company to go national. Technology made it possible for us to turn follow-up results around quickly for any dealer in the country.  Today we provide completed survey results by e-mail in real time, often within hours of the customer's visit to the dealership. In addition, our clients can login securely to our website and view real-time survey results and summary reporting.

All regional follow-up companies had the chance to go national because of the Internet. As a result, dealers have more telephone follow-up companies to choose from than ever before. Competition has made for better quality services and pricing. In addition, technology has allowed telephone follow-up companies to build extremely efficient call centers, which also keeps pricing down.

As you can imagine, the faster you are able to resolve customer dissatisfaction, the better chance you have to create customer loyalty. Customers who complain about their vehicle quality or dealership experience, and are happy with the way the dealership handles their complaints, are more than 1.5 times as likely to be loyal to the dealership than non-complainers.

Also, the faster you receive your follow-up feedback and are able to resolve dissatisfaction, the faster you are able to reduce or eliminate negative word-of-mouth. You’ve probably heard the statistic that when a customer is dissatisfied, he or she will tell anywhere from 14 to 17 other people how unhappy they are. Technology has given telephone follow-up companies the tools to report customer feedback to you immediately, so you can take care of your customers properly. Resolving customer issues faster leads to increased profits.

According to John Schwartz, service director of Toyota of Puyallup, “The faster turnaround time of customer information allows us to contact our customers sooner to resolve any concerns. Plus we are able to track our CSI summary reports daily, and if there are areas that need attention, we can focus on them immediately”.

If you outsource your CSI follow-up, you may be fortunate enough to use a company that provides a web-based complaint resolution process, which is essential for streamlining how you resolve customer complaints. Several years ago, my company developed a powerful customer relationship management tool and made it available on our website. This Customer Tracking Report (CTR) makes it possible for any manager in the dealership to monitor all unresolved customer issues in real time. Various people within the dealership can communicate ideas and suggestions by simply updating the CTR on the Internet.

Managers can create CTR’s and require employees to completely follow through in resolving the issue. We provide clients with a second, more restricted password that prevents the user from deleting a CTR that has been created by their manager. This second password establishes a system of accountability for employees who are required to follow through with each and every customer complaint.

A good complaint resolution process is essential to increase customer loyalty and CSI. Technology and the Internet provide the tools to streamline your process so it is as efficient as possible. Also, you have a detailed, paperless record of each step taken in the process. Manufacturers in the automotive industry increasingly require documentation of the customer complaint resolution process.

As you know, you can only improve upon something you can measure. Therefore, if you are following up with your customers, the more information you have in the form of statistical summary reporting, the better off you are. How do you produce even more information and better reporting? Remember this first: It is not necessary to ask a specific CSI question to track specific areas of customer dissatisfaction. Your customer has no desire to answer more questions or complete another long and tedious satisfaction survey. What is essential is your ability to track the comments made by your customer on your standard CSI survey.

One option is a web-based “Trend” function that makes it possible for dealership managers to track customer comments. As our clients read through comments from completed surveys, they can assign a trend category to each. A real-time “trending” report takes shape as a result.

This report provides a very detailed, in-depth analysis of customer concerns. It also allows you to track anything you might be particularly concerned about. For example, the number and percentage of customers who complained about bad coffee or the fact that you didn't wash their car after the service. You have a way to measure the significance of customer concerns.

More and more telephone follow-up companies are building better systems every day. If you choose to use the best of these systems and surround yourself with effective tools, your “online” manufacturer CSI scores should soar.

You might feel that not all technology is right for you. But as a dealership manager, the technology in the CSI world can be of enormous benefit. And one final thought: if you think technology is moving rapidly now, just imagine where we’ll be in ten years!

Dusty Dunkle is Vice President of Customer Research, Inc., a provider of customer satisfaction telephone follow-up in the automotive industry since 1967. Contact Dusty at 206.242.9969; toll free at 800.886.3472; by e-mail at CSI@CustomerResearch.com; or visit www.CustomerResearch.com.