Seven Steps to Better CSI Survey Data

Dec. 20, 2017
The keys to receiving more CSI surveys—with stronger, more usable data

Steve Schoolcraft makes no qualms about it: CSI surveys are one of the most crucial ways to drive improvement and sales growth in a collision repair shop. It’s direct feedback from your customers on their actual experiences—not the experiences you believe they had, Schoolcraft says. As the  president of marketing and CSI firm Phoenix Solutions Group, Schoolcraft is dedicated to mining data to statistically determine the top factors driving survey response rates. Last year, his company analyzed more than 600,000 surveys to understand what separates high quality survey responses from poor, low rates.

There’s no easy solution, he says: Strong CSI comes down to investing time, resources and energy into improving a customer’s repair experience and measuring it correctly.
“The majority of us don’t fill out surveys because we don’t think it matters. If we really felt it mattered, we would fill it out,” he says. “If you really thought you had influence on changing the experience at wherever you shop, you would be actively involved in doing it. But we don’t because nothing changes.”

?Schoolcraft outlines the top seven ways to reverse that perception and start down the path to receiving more CSI survey responses with stronger data.

1) Don't badger the customer.

One of the most common misconceptions regarding CSI surveys has to do with the speed at which a survey is returned, Schoolcraft says. The industry has a perception that gathering this information quickly is a true indicator of a shop’s performance, which he says is untrue. Consumers need time to make an accurate assessment of a shop’s performance, he says, which can take up to 30 days or longer. Unfortunately, many shop owners believe that increasing attempts at contacting a customer to remind them to fill out the survey is an effective method.

“They are influencing a decline in survey response rates because they are spending a tremendous amount of time badgering the customer,” he says. “Customers are hammered with surveys, day in and day out. What we have found is that consumers are more irritated because of the badgering process.”

Not only does this badgering result in a deterioration of response rates, it also causes a decrease in overall customer satisfaction. Instead, Schoolcraft says you should hold off on contacting customers to remind them and keep in mind that taking longer for customers to return a survey could indicate uncertainty with their repair experience.

 2) Review your vehicle delivery process.

Schoolcraft says that one of the strongest influences over the customer’s experience—and consequently their CSI survey results—is the vehicle delivery experience. Shops with a committed delivery process that includes reviewing each delivered vehicle tend to engage with the customer at higher levels than shops who just hand them the keys, Schoolcraft says. 

After going through the meet-and-greet, take the customer to their vehicle to review the repair. Go over every aspect of the repair, reminding the customer exactly what was wrong with the vehicle and informing them of exactly what his team did to fix it. Get the documents signed, the payments made and inform the customer of any warranty or care requirements needed for the vehicle. This is also a good opportunity to inform the customer of your CSI survey process. Reinforce how important those surveys are to you and the value they provide for the shop. Finally, let them know when they will receive the survey and the process for completing it.

3) Focus on customer engagement.

Above all else, Schoolcraft says that what drives survey response rates the most is customer engagement. In fact, Schoolcraft says that shops with a customer-focused culture regularly see survey response rates 20 points higher than those who are passive with customers.

“It’s the culture that resides within the company,” he says. “What we find is that if we have a shop who has a strong customer culture—they really support and nurture the data the customer provides for them and utilize it for a means to end, meaning they’re trying to improve their business—they have a much higher response rate than those who don’t.”

Ultimately, the majority of customers don’t fill out surveys because they don’t believe their feedback matters, Schoolcraft says. Expressing genuine concern over the data is the No. 1 way to improve your survey response rates and the quality of the data, he says. 

“Any time a customer fills out a survey, it’s a gift,” he says. “If it’s improvement, then embrace it.”

Start to build a culture in your shop that’s focused on the customer’s actual experience and explain to your staff the importance of building a customer-focused culture. Consider every step of the repair process, Schoolcraft says, and how the customer experiences those steps. Use surveys with constructive criticism to work on missteps and identify problem areas in the shop. For more information on building a better culture, visit 

“If you look at the other industry response rates, a shop that has a good culture and a survey response rate of 35 percent can easily be pushed to a 50 percent response rate,” Schoolcraft says. “A shop that’s compliance centered, I’ll have to work very hard to get it to half that."

4) Consider your survey delivery method.

Contrary to popular belief, Schoolcraft says that using texting as a survey delivery method is still a very limited resource. That’s because it’s not designed for thorough responses aimed at improvement; it’s compliance based. Instead, Schoolcraft recommends email or mail surveys—and surprisingly, he says mail surveys are still driving higher response rates, mainly because email unopened rates are so high (roughly 85 percent).

“What we know about mail is that they they receive it, they open it and look at it. We know we have a 98 percent open rate on mail,” Schoolcraft says. “We have a very small open rate on email. That’s universal. How many junk emails do you get? We attribute that to the open rate.”

That’s not to say you couldn’t use email or text message surveys, he says, but just know your customers, your market and the ways in which they prefer to communicate. If email works well for your shop, stick with it, but don’t force a survey method that’s not working, he says. The method he most discourages, however, are phone surveys.

5) Thank the customer.

Although showing genuine concern over the data is a point that needs to be emphasized internally, it also needs to be shown to the customer. That’s why, when a customer responds to a survey, there needs to be an acknowledgement that the data was received and that it was important, Schoolcraft says.
“It’s a closed loop,” he says. “You provide me the information and I thank you for the information.”

If a customer rates you perfectly, call and thank them. If a customer gives you good insight and improvement recommendations, call to thank them and let them know the changes you’ve implemented.

6) Customize the survey.

Each survey should specifically be customized for that particular customer. That means the header of the survey is addressable to that individual. It lists the customer information, the car, the repair, the insurance company and the repair amount. Schoolcraft says that doing so makes your shop look more professional and shows that you take the survey seriously and time was put into it. The point, he says, is that the surveys should not look generic

7) Consider the language carefully.

When it comes to the length of your CSI survey, Schoolcraft says that it’s OK to go long—as long as the questions are worded properly. You want the survey to provide real value, so don’t go with simplistic questions that are mindless. Instead, think about the value the data is presenting and the story the survey is telling. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, such as “How important were reviews in your selection criteria?,” “How much influence did the insurance company have on your decisions?” or listing the selection factors (location, OE parts, referrals, etc.)

“As you gather that intelligence, you clearly have a defined view of what goes on in the consumer’s mind,” he says.

Besides the wording, you also want to switch up the way the customer answers a question, including yes/no questions, ratings, multiple selections and write-in answers. This helps weed out any conflicting answers or incongruent surveys, which don’t have statistical evidence. 

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