Are You Leaving Money on the Table? Here's Why Tracking CSI Benefits Your Shop

July 28, 2022

The customer satisfaction index, or CSI, can provide key insights into your shop and boost your bottom line over time. Learn what agencies like AAA look for and why it matters for creating strategic partnerships.

The customer satisfaction index, or CSI, is a valuable tool shop owners can use to hear directly from customers, analyze feedback, and promote their shop’s top-notch work. However, a recent Ratchet+Wrench survey found that many shops still don’t track CSI. 

Tracking CSI not only helps shops understand levels of customer satisfaction, but it provides insight into your shop, and maintaining a high CSI score is necessary to gain AAA approval. In addition, shops can use positive feedback as a promotional tool. 

Gregg Rainville, the chief revenue officer at Mechanic Advisor, routinely works with shops and helps them track CSI and gain AAA approval. Rainville recently spoke with Ratchet+Wrench about the importance of tracking CSI and how a shop can get started. 

Why It's Important

It all starts with the name. The first and most obvious reason to track CSI is to understand where your shop stands in providing a full-service customer service experience. 

All shop owners hope to provide a premier experience for their customers from the moment they walk through the door until they drive their car off the lot. But if you don’t inquire about their experience, you’ll never get a complete picture of how well your shop is doing on providing that full-service experience. 

Reviews, feedback, and CSI scores are superb tools that provide key insight into your shop. 

“You can really look into a business and know the quality of the business … by looking at CSI scores and feedback from customers and stuff like that,” Rainville says. 

Gaining AAA approval is another significant reason why many shops will track CSI. In order to become a AAA shop, you need to have 95 percent satisfaction or better, meaning 95 percent of your feedback has to be satisfied or above. 

An often-overlooked element to CSI is reviews, which are critical in driving business into your shop. Rainville says as the world has shifted more and more digital, having accessible reviews of your business online has become more and more important. 

"If you don’t have any reviews or any type of customer feedback out there, you’re probably going to lose that potential new customer coming through your door,” Rainville says. 

Rainville explains that not only are reviews a good tool in which to drive business into your shop, but it also gives the customer a voice through an open-ended question, which can be a better venue for honest feedback. 

And a platform like Google, for example, can allow the shop owner to respond to said feedback, which is both personal and demonstrates to future customers how that shop treats their current customers. 

Getting Started

While some shops track CSI in-house, the majority track it via a third party, which can be an easier transition, and it provides consistency in the questions asked to customers. 

At Mechanic Advisor, Rainville says they have a process in which they collect customers’ emails and phone numbers when their tickets close, which allows them to follow up on their experiences at the shop. 

For AAA shops, Mechanic Advisor sends out CSI surveys the customers fill out, which goes into a report sent back to AAA. 

Depending on what the individual shop wants, Mechanic Advisor will ask for feedback for CSI anywhere from two days to five days after a customer’s visit. 

And there are many companies similar to Mechanic Advisor which will provide services for shops in order to track CSI. 

Kathleen Callahan, owner of Xpertech Auto Repair in Englewood, Florida, is a Gold NAPA AutoCare Center, and NAPA provides CSI surveys, which go into Xpertech Auto Repair’s CSI score. 

On a small scale, getting started tracking CSI can be as simple as using a consumer relationship management (CRM) provider such as Yelp, Google, or Facebook, and asking for reviews to begin gauging your customer experiences from there. 

Key Metrics

Again—it all starts with the name. The key metric in tracking customer satisfaction is just that—satisfaction. 

CSI surveys typically range from “totally satisfied” to “totally dissatisfied.” For example, if a customer is asked how they felt about the repairs done on their vehicle, they can respond: totally satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied or dissatisfied, dissatisfied, or totally dissatisfied.

“Anybody not paying attention to that metric probably should,” Callahan says. “That’s like not looking at how much money you’re making.” 

The goal for shops, of course, is to be as close to “totally satisfied” as you can, which becomes increasingly important for shops looking to gain and maintain AAA approval, where it’s necessary to have 95 percent satisfaction or better to gain that approval and remain a AAA shop.

Rainville also can’t understand the importance of reviews. Again, the goal, of course, is to have mostly positive reviews, whether that’s on a scale of one to five or one to 10. But it’s also critical for the reviews to appear genuine. 

“I always like telling my shops, you know, you don’t want a 5.0,” Rainville explains. “No shop can be 100 percent perfect. If you are, there should be red flags.” 

The Flip Side

So, that’s the positive side of CSI, but what happens if you choose not to track it? 

Well, for starters, you lose out on key insights into your business; how can you track kinks in your business model without tracking CSI? 

Keeping up on CSI can also be a quality control tool. If you have a bad front desk employee, you won’t know unless you have a venue in which to ask customers. Without tracking CSI in some way, shape, or form, you lose out on that customer input, that quality control tool, and the added insight into your business. 

Without tracking CSI, you can kiss AAA approval goodbye since it requires a metric of 95 percent satisfaction or better. 

Finally, you’re losing out on potential customers you couldn’t find or who were scared off by the lack of information from fellow customers online. 

“If you don’t have that positive feedback, like it’s not going to help your business,” Rainville says. “A lot of our shops, too, display their reviews, or put their best reviews on their website or on their Facebook page. That just helps improve customer confidence, and even your own existing base.” 

Results Speak

Xpertech Auto Repair recently won the 2022 AAA Gold Top Shop for North America in the small shop category and the national AAA Best in Auto Repair Silver 1-5 bay awards. 

That’s in large part because Jarosik isn’t one to shy away from her CSI feedback. The recent accolades haven’t stopped Callahan from trying to improve her business. 

A while back, Callahan had a customer review that bemoaned a lengthy wait time to get their car in. The customer said Xpertech Auto Repair shouldn’t take new clients because its booming business has the shop booking weeks ahead. 

That told Callahan that her shop has become the one that’s “too busy.” She likened it to the restaurant you love, but you don’t ever want to go there because you know you’re in for an hour-long wait to get a table. 

So, for the last two years, Jarosik has been working on getting permits to add two more bays at Xpertech Auto Repair, all based on the insight from her customer. 

“If you don’t ask the questions, you don’t know where your problems are,” she says. 

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