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100-Percent Satisfied

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Customer service index (CSI) scores are more than just a number. They’re a quantitative value that insurers and customers assess to understand the quality of your shop. Maintaining high results helps retain customers and increase the probability that they will recommend you to others.

There are a plethora of customer-focused programs that shops have implemented to boost the customer experience, such as rewards or loyalty initiatives. Those extra services have their place in wowing customers, but obtaining high CSI results is more about the nuts and bolts of the repair process, says Stacy Bartnik, vice president of operations for CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts. It’s about excelling at the basic elements evaluated by CSI surveys—treatment of customers, communication, quality and timeliness. Shops should strive to hit 100 percent satisfaction scores in each of those categories every time, she says.

There are several variables that can impact your shop’s CSI scores, including supplements, parts delays, quality disagreements or miscommunication with customers. Many moving pieces need to come together perfectly for your shop to hit that seemingly insurmountable 100-percent mark.

“Under-promising and over-delivering makes a big difference in wowing customers with speed.”
—Al Waller, general manager,
Fradella’s Collision Centers

Shops need to have processes and systems, outlined through written standard operating procedures (SOPs), to help achieve consistent and predictable outcomes in order to impress customers throughout every aspect of the repair process, Bartnik says. That’s what allows you to set proper customer expectations and fulfill those promises—the driving force of obtaining high CSI and a hassle-free customer experience.

So how do shops do it? FenderBender found examples of shops that have been able to break the 100-percent barrier. Use their tips in the following four categories and you’re sure to bring your shop’s CSI results toward perfection. 

On-time Delivery

Tip #1: Don’t set expectations based on rough estimates.

Camille Eber, co-owner of Fix Auto Portland East in Portland, Ore., says on-time delivery is one of the most important CSI components to customers. Vehicle owners put a lot of stock in your ability to follow through on your word, so setting forth a realistic repair timeline is critical.


Fix Auto Portland East still writes traditional estimates for customers shopping around. But the shop won’t propose any target completion date based on that estimate. There’s always hidden damage, and delivery dates change once all necessary repairs are uncovered, Eber says.

Tip #2: Blueprint repairs.

Fix Auto Portland East conducts a full vehicle disassembly. Estimators verify all damage, every part needed, and how long it will take to get parts. The full repair plan is mapped out and conveyed to technicians so they’re not left guessing what needs to be done.
Eber says that process allows the shop to provide customers with exact completion dates, barring any possible unexpected obstacles.

Tip #3: Use your management system.

Al Waller, general manager of Fradella’s Collision Centers, a three-shop operation in Louisiana, uses the shop’s management system to project completion dates once repairs are blueprinted. The system automatically provides an appropriate repair timeframe based on the shop’s cycle time and efficiency statistics.

Tip #4: Under-promise completion dates.

Waller provides one day of padding room on delivery dates in order to exceed customer expectations. If a repair is projected at four days, he tells the customer it will take five.

“It’s about meeting and exceeding the customer’s expectations every time. You need to fulfill your promises,” Waller says. “Under-promising and over-delivering makes a big difference in wowing customers with speed.”


Tip #5: Educate the customer.

Fix Auto Portland East uses a vehicle check-in sheet to discuss repair issues with customers up front. The check-in process is an opportunity to educate customers and set expectations regarding the quality of their repair, such as color match issues.

Eber says customers are commonly dismayed with color match problems caused by rubber bumpers, pre-painted plastic parts or vehicles with faded color. They don’t always understand why colors don’t appear to match, and assume that it was caused by shoddy work.

Eber says you need to spend time educating customers, and point out those issues in advance so they know what to expect when their vehicle is delivered. Explain how pre-painted parts were painted at a different time and place, why paint on plastic parts looks different than on metal parts, and why new paint won’t match a faded car.

Tip #6: Ask for the customer’s opinion

Eber says there are situations when the shop fixes one small portion of a vehicle’s hood. That area needs to be blended with the rest of the hood, which is often littered with rock chips. Some customers mistakenly assume the rock chips will also be repaired, not knowing insurers don’t pay for pre-existing damage.

In the past, the shop would just do what the insurer agreed to pay for. Technicians would blend and clearcoat over the rock chips, leaving a choppy finish. Eber says about 90 percent of customers were upset that they weren’t consulted first. They said they would have paid more money out of pocket in order to get a smooth finish.

Now the shop spends time educating customers in those situations. Estimators describe the customer’s options and ask for their preference to prevent any miscommunication regarding quality.

Tip #7: Implement a quality control process.

Waller identified several intervals during the repair process when vehicles are inspected for quality. Every job is scanned over after each department completes its work to make sure everything was done correctly each step of the way.

“We catch everything that customers might object to when they see it. It makes a huge difference to quality control throughout the process.”
—Al Waller, general manager, Fradella’s Collision Centers

Jobs are also road tested and given a final thorough inspection before delivery to the customer.

“We catch everything that customers might object to when they see it,” Waller says. “It makes a huge difference to quality control throughout the process. It helps catch mistakes right away that could cause timely delays if overlooked.”

Tip #8: Deliver cars with impeccable appearance.

Waller says repair quality also entails vehicle cleanliness and appearance. Every car should be spotless, and leave cleaner than how it came in.


Tip #9: Identify the preferred communication method.

Your shop’s method and frequency of customer communication needs to be based on their preferences, Eber says. All customers have different expectations of when to be updated during the repair. In addition, customers vary in their preferred communication method, such as phone, email or text. Communicate exactly as they ask you to.

Tip #10: Implement automated communication reminders.

Waller says Fradella’s Collision Centers uses its management system to automate customer contact. The system automatically alerts office staff to communicate with customers based on certain preferences entered into the software, and any time the target repair date changes. Office staff must physically respond to the alert, and enter notes confirming the issue was addressed.

Waller says that ensures that customer follow-up won’t fall through the cracks.

Customer Care

Tip #11: Have an inviting office.

The atmosphere of your facility is a key component of CSI, Eber says. Customers need to feel welcome and comfortable. Eber keeps the office clean and well-maintained. She makes sure the furniture is presentable, and offers free coffee, tea and cookies.

Tip #12: Relate to the customer

Eber removed the counter that once sat in the front office. She says it only served as a barrier between employees and customers.

So she installed bar-style tables and stools where the counter used to be. Eber says that enables “shoulder to shoulder” customer communication. That builds stronger relationships, and allows for more meaningful conversations to take place.

Tip #13: Offer something extra.

The repair experience isn’t pleasant for customers, Waller says. It makes a big difference to customers if you can go out of your way to do a little something extra for them.

It can be something very small, he says, such as wiping a mark off a panel, fixing a loose molding or replacing a burned-out taillight. “If you can do something extra that takes less than five minutes, do it,” Waller says. “Seize the opportunity to make the customer feel special.

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