Measuring Success: How CSI Technology Can Improve Your Bottom Line and Turn Customers into AdvertisersPosted 5/10/2004
By Alexis Gross
Why Track CSI?
"If you're going to grow your business, you have to track your customer service information," said Dave Henderson, president of See Progress Inc. See Progress operates the AutoWatch program. "I don't know of any companies, especially body shops, that are really moving forward that are not tracking CSI. How do you respond to anything if you don't track it and understand it? If you don't measure something, you can't change it."
John Webb, vice president of marketing and new business development at CSi Complete Inc., believes that tracking CSI goes beyond the bottom line and affects the basic attitude of the shop.
"At the end of the day what we're trying to do is positively change cultures within businesses," he said. "We're not just taking a measurement, we also try to figure out why numbers are coming up the way they are."
Several factors come into play when making the decision to track CSI. Cost is usually a top concern for many shops.
"I think part of it is that tracking customer service information has not always been the easiest thing to do, and there's an expense associated with it that you have to justify," said Henderson. "It's like advertising and marketing. If a shop slows down, many shops think the first place to cut costs is in advertising and marketing, when in reality, that's the last thing you should do."
CSi Complete is a phone-based market research facility located in Ohio. It offers a telephone survey to shop customers after the repair is complete to evaluate their experience.
Webb sees a statistical advantage to the random distribution garnered from phone surveys. Shops using a business reply card to assess their CSI are only catching two types of fish, he said.
"People who are predisposed to returning a business reply card are either very happy or very unhappy," said Webb. "Unfortunately, the majority of your business is going to be in the middle of that bell curve. If you can move those people in the middle one gradation up on that bell curve - to be true champions of your business - you turn your customers into your marketers, and that shows dramatic results."
E-mail surveys or surveys distributed through a shop Web site carry a similar disadvantage, he said.
"You're limiting your universe to people who own a computer and are predisposed to respond to your survey. Even today, people who own a computer are only in the 50-60 percentile range," said Webb. "If we get a list of 100 customers, it's a pretty safe bet that they're all going to have a phone. We'll try everyone on that list and get 75 percent completed on the actual surveys. From a market research perspective, it's a little bit more solid."
One of CSi Complete's services that Webb believes is most valuable is the "hot sheet," an alert message instantly delivered to a shop owner's e-mail or fax any time CSi Complete receives a negative comment regarding the shop during a phone survey. It gives the results of the survey and can also contain a recording of the actual conversation CSi Complete had with the customer.
"Most of these are minor complaints," said Webb. "Obviously you're going to hear about something major. But where you really impress people is when you care enough to follow up on details or cleanliness. Typically it's minor, but you're really impressing them. You're moving that customer from passively satisfied to a marketer for your business."
In addition to an instant alert to any negative comments, CSi Complete also sends a monthly report tracking your overall rating and daily updates. Since all surveys are digitally recorded, they are available to the shop for learning purposes.
"A lot of management philosophies are created around the information we deliver. Shops are developing meetings and forming their corporate culture around the information we're giving them," Webb said. "Because there's a lot of money involved, it becomes very emotional when there's a negative report. Listening to a negative call provides an opportunity for learning and feedback, coaching and training, and constant improvement."
One of the most striking improvements seen by some shops that use CSi Complete is a reduction in return rate. The national average is 18 percent.
"One of the things that they're doing is using the information and feedback to lower that rate. One shop lowered their return rate from 18 to 13 percent, and then translated that into dollars," said Webb. "When you work on a car that's been returned for service, you're taking labor hours that could be spent on a new profitable job. Instead, you're putting it toward something you've already fixed."
Translating CSI results into monetary figures is a new facet of the CSi Complete program called ProfitLink. CSi Complete has an example of ProfitLink, a return on investment model, available on its Web site. To see the ProfitLink ROI model worksheet, go to www.csicomplete.com, click on the January 2004 in the left hand CSi Complete E-News column, scroll down to "Product and Service Updates" and click on the link for a free ProfitLink worksheet.
AutoWatch is a Web-based service that benefits both shop and customer, said Henderson. The biggest advantage to customers is the ability to track their vehicles through the shop's Web site.
"The thing that separates us from everybody else is we give them a photograph," said Henderson. "When a customer logs in to the Web site and enters his or her ID number - which is usually the repair order (RO) number - they can see their vehicle, the estimated delivery date and a message from the service advisor telling them which of the nine stages of repair their car is in - such as the paint shop, reassembly, etcetera. What we've done is answer their three biggest questions on the Web site, which prevents the need for them to call the shop. Shops that use our service have seen an average 40 percent reduction in calls to the shop."
Henderson says AutoWatch is changing the mindset of the collision repair industry.
"For the past 30 years, we were almost hiding the car from the customer. Now we're saying, 'Let me show you this repair process.' Now customers, because they're getting this status information, can see the repair process and understand why we take five days to do this," he said. "They start to understand there's more to repairing a fender and a door than they thought."
Customers using AutoWatch average about 15 clicks on their car over the course of the repair. The fifth time they click on their car, a three-question survey pops up that asks whether the customer has any questions about the repair and whether they feel the process was fully explained to them. It also asks why they chose your shop.
"Those surveys are instantly submitted to the shop," said Henderson. "It gives shops an opportunity to be proactive and turn negative experiences around. We're the only company that does that. The shop can monitor the results of the survey in their control panel."
The control panel is what Henderson calls "the back side of the Web site." It allows the repair shop to monitor all the vehicles in the facility, tracking where each one is in the repair process, which ones are complete, which are on time and which are running behind schedule or are late for delivery. The control panel also shows which advisor is assigned to which vehicles and which technicians are working on those vehicles.
"They can see it all from their desk or even at home. If a manager is out at a convention or a 20 Group, they can still check on the shop," said Henderson. The control panel is also a concise way of monitoring the efficiency of each shop in a multi-shop operation.
AutoWatch also includes management reports that interpret daily status reports into results over time, like cycle time reports and production reports, and summaries of daily efficiency and what work is scheduled for the day ahead.
What's key to all of this, said Henderson, is the shop only enters data once. All of the updates are done through photographs.
"There is an identification sheet that the shop fills out when they take in a new vehicle that gets taped to the windshield. It has blocks for the nine stages of repair and the ID number, service advisor, delivery date and claim number for that vehicle," he said. "When the shop takes the daily photos of the car, they first take a picture of that ID sheet with the number for which stage of repair it's in covered up. For example, if the vehicle is in the paint shop, that numbered box is covered up with a sticky note. It takes shops an average of about 20 minutes to take these photos in the morning, and it's easy enough to do that you can have a porter or a front desk person do it when they come in. We date and time-stamp the photo so the customer knows when the photo was taken."
Currently the identification sheets are handwritten, but AutoWatch is beta testing a bar-coding system.
"Instead of writing the sheet out, this is the only time the shop will enter data," said Henderson. "The repair cycle numbers and the bar code are computer-readable from the photograph, so there will be none of the guesswork involved in reading handwritten sheets and no chance of mis-keying information on AutoWatch's end."
Another service AutoWatch is beta testing is for the insurance company. Reports are sent every day to the adjusters, agents and other pertinent people at the insurance company tailored to the vehicles serviced by that company.
"Every day at 9 a.m., this comes to them as e-mail. They can click on the photo from their e-mail and decide if they need to make a trip to the shop, and prioritize their work," said Henderson. "It saves them time and money by saving the adjuster making five trips to the shop during a repair."
AutoWatch also began archiving all of their photos last year and will continue to do so. This has already been a valuable service to some of their customers, said Henderson.
"When the insurance company comes to say, 'I don't think you blended that fender,' how do you fight that? Now you've got it documented," he said. "Tell us the RO number and date, and we'll send all the photos to you."
Michael Anderson, owner of Wagonwork Collision Center in Alexandria, Va., uses CSi Complete and finds the hot sheet updates especially valuable.
"I can immediately follow up with that customer," he said. "I really like this because as a multiple shop owner, I can't always be there to ensure my customers are being treated the right way by my staff, and this gives me a feeling of security."
The downside to the advantages he's received from monitoring his CSI is the expense he didn't have several years ago.
"While our expenses increase, our profits haven't," said Anderson. "Each month as I look to maintain our bottom line, I have to ask myself, 'Is this something that is worthwhile?'"
Prior to using CSi Complete, Anderson sent business reply cards.
"We typically had about a 50 percent return ratio on those cards," he said. "They were certainly better than nothing, and the cost was much cheaper, however it was not as detailed as what CSi Complete does."
As a result of using CSi Complete, Anderson is able to respond more quickly to dissatisfied customers, he said. "Another improvement is the ability to post these scores in certificate form in our waiting areas and link them to our Web site."
Chuck Sulkala, AAM, owner of Acme Body & Paint Company, Inc. in Boston, Mass., uses both AutoWatch and CSi Complete in his shop. Before using these monitoring programs, he said, "we took the customer's check and they took the keys. If they drove away without taillights going on, we assumed things were fine and the customer was happy. Now we know."
Sulkala has used CSi Complete for about five years and added AutoWatch two years ago.
"[AutoWatch] has met with great acceptance and has given the customer the ability to go online and see the repair when it is convenient for them without interfering with us," he said.
Sulkala has noticed a greater concern among his staff as well as the technicians since monitoring his CSI because they know the customer will be followed up with a call, he said.
"They are even more cautious and concerned about a quality repair," he said. "I hate to say it, but before, that may not have quite been the case."
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