There is much to be learned from Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealers. The processes and procedures throughout their organizations are world-class. And, collectively, nowhere does that become more evident than in their strategies for customer service.
Their No. 1 indicator for success in this department — an average of 95.4 CSI — is impressive, but, to them, it’s not quite good enough. The Top 100 Dealers are striving for perfection, and they’ve established nearly every initiative imaginable to ensure that number only gets better.
Of course, it’s not the number that they really care about. It’s the customer.
“Again the question: Why do we have CSI systems?” explains Joe Hoffmaster of Hoffmaster’s Marina (Ranked 54 in the 2006 Top 100). “It’s not to have perfect scores so we can win awards. It’s so we can make customers happy the way they want to be happy.”
The best of the best among marine dealers believe in and apply the old cliché that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. And they take it quite seriously, measuring CSI in every conceivable fashion: by calendar year, by model year, by quarter, by month, by boat brand, by engine brand, by department, by employee, by customer, and by transaction. Any way they can measure it, they turn it into an opportunity for improvement. And they turn it into a strategy. Not a belief or a hope — a detailed, well-planned strategy.
There’s a common perception that only about 15 to 20 percent of today’s dealer body really, truly understands the concept of CSI and, more importantly, its value. And no wonder — it began as kind of a necessary evil. Manufacturer partners launched the industry CSI program, and suddenly there was a number that attempted to define your quality of service.
Those non-believers out there still scoff at the rating system. But now, those who understand it and use it as a self-improvement tool are leaving the non-believers in their wake. And it won’t be long before today’s boater figures out the difference between the best and the rest.
That’s where Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealers and their strategies come in.
Over the remainder of the year, Boating Industry, by way of sharing best practices from the 2006 Top 100 Dealers, will dedicate content in every issue to improving CSI scores. We’ll break these tips down into appropriate sections so they’re useable and easily applied to your business. They won’t be full-on instruction manuals with step-by-step implementation guidelines, but they will include ideas that, when applied appropriately, will work for your business and your customers.
The most significant trend we recognized in the 2006 Top 100 was the creation of detailed CSI strategies. These strategies come in many different shapes and sizes. And while these initiatives might not be revenue-generating by themselves, they have become the enforcer of all things related to CSI. When executed correctly, every part of your business that affects CSI can be linked back to this strategy.
Here are ideas to set up your own CSI-related
Determine your goal
What do you want to accomplish with your CSI survey? If you’re merely looking for the best scores possible, you’re cheating yourself, your employees and your customers. Create a survey that will provide improvement opportunities.
Example: Rob Youker at The Sportsman (Ranked 65) has used an internally built CSI survey for a few years now. He recently had an opportunity, in his view, to improve his scores just by changing his questions from a 1-10 ranking to a five-question “yes-or-no” format. Who among us couldn’t score well on five simple questions such as, “Was the sales rep courteous and polite?”; “Have you been contacted since the boat was delivered?”; etc.? If we can’t control those measurements, we’ve got much bigger problems than just our CSI scores.
Youker, however, isn’t really interested in improving the number. He’s interested in improving his business, and he believes the best way to do that is by developing a loyal customer base.
“It’s not my goal to increase my CSI scores,” Youker says. “It’s my personal goal to increase my base of loyal customers. The ones that go out and sing my praises. The third-party endorsements that say, ‘the only place you should consider buying your boat is The Sportsman.’”
And you don’t accomplish that by asking “yes-or-no” questions.
The key to improving your CSI scores is getting your employees to believe in the value of that number. And it’s truly difficult to make that happen, unless you believe in it yourself. For many Top 100 Dealers, that belief began with a policy that underscored the importance of taking care of the customer. At Causeway Marine (Ranked 48), for example, executives believe that 80 percent of all problems that arise can be handled by having the proper policy in place. The other 20 percent need management intervention. By preparing with the right policies, you can limit the inefficiencies in your services and thereby create happier customers. Here are nine policies you could implement as a starting point:
1. No confrontation. Port Harbor Marine (Ranked 27) uses a no-confrontation policy, where every employee is empowered to ask the customer what they would like to have done to make a problem right and then to do it.
2. Process map. If you haven’t caught on to this yet, you need to do so quickly. Many dealers — through the use of books, seminars, suppliers such as GE, or the dealer certification program — are improving their businesses by instituting process maps that double as quality control systems. This is a perfect opportunity to see where your business is weak and to quickly learn where you can improve on your systems.
3. A new organizational chart. Many companies say their customers come first. At Colony Marine (Ranked 25), this belief is committed to paper, where the dealer’s organizational chart features the customer at the top. Don’t just speak the cliché, act on it.
4. Make it HOT. Through review of CSI surveys, many actionable items pop up and demand immediate attention. Use Hot Sheets to call attention to these problems, making everyone aware of them so they can be solved. Immediately.
5. Create action plans. It’s easy to recognize when a problem arises. The difficulty comes when deciding what to do about it. Hall Marine Group (Ranked 4) instituted a CSI Dealership Process that seeks to, among other things, develop a “chain of events,” which provides quick and timely notification of customer issues to the dealership manager and puts swift resolution and correction at the top of the priority list.
6. Empower employees. A number of Top 100 Dealers determined a dollar amount that their employees were empowered to spend to make customers happy. This simple gesture reminds them to go the distance to create customers for life.
7. Don’t pass the buck. At Lynnhaven Marine (Ranked 24), if a customer question, issue or complaint arises with you, you resolve it. Even if it is not your issue or area of responsibility.
8. Open-book policy. Part of creating a CSI program is getting everyone to focus on its improvement. With that in mind, report your CSI scores to your employees. Let everyone know where the dealership is doing well and where there are areas for improvement. In this case, knowledge is indeed power.
9. Make no excuse. Every dealer can create an excuse for why their scores are as “low” as they are. Every dealer has a high-maintenance customer who demands attention at all times. Every dealer has product or warranty issue that causes a poor CSI score from time to time. Don’t use these as excuses. Use them as opportunities to improve by finding a way to prevent such problems.
Know the subject matter/B>
Many dealers don’t even understand how their CSI score is created. Sure, they know that customers “rate” them, but the method of it confuses some. The key here is to know what questions the surveys ask the consumers and know what you can do to improve their answers. Most surveys have five questions regarding the dealer. Manufacturers who use CSI programs typically send two surveys, which give you, potentially, 10 total scores. While some may incorporate all 10 scores into your average, others use only one indicator for your score: the answer to “Overall, how satisfied were you with this dealer?” If you don’t know which method determines your score, find out. And then figure out what you can do to improve that score. n
n Create a department
Before we show you how some Top 100 Dealers created their own CSI-focused programs, here are nine keys to their success.
1. Pointman. Or pointpeople. Your department might consist of one person working on CSI solutions for your business, or it might be an entire group of people. Regardless of how you decide, those people should be dedicated solely to the pursuit of better customer service. Hampton Watercraft & Marine (Ranked 13) hired a new customer service manager last year and expects to add another person to help with CSI scores this year. Silver Lake Marine (Ranked 88), uses a two-person approach: one individual is dedicated to customer details and the other to customer communication. Together, they keep the dealership’s CSI in check and ensure that customers leave satisfied and stay that way.
2. The bottom line. MarineMax (Ranked 1) sets and enforces a bottom line when it comes to its CSI scores. In this case, “92” is the magic number, and anything less receives quick action to determine and correct the problems. Sea Ray and others are using 92 as the bottom rung of their dealer programs, as well. It used to be that 90 CSI was the minimum, but their bar has been raised. Has yours?
3. Return to sender. A common complaint regarding CSI scores is the poor return rate the surveys receive. There are ways to improve that. At Marine Center of Indiana (Ranked 50), for example, customers who return their cards are entered into a drawing for some really cool prizes, including a flat screen television. At Russell Marine (Ranked 10), the company donates $50 to a local charity when the customer sends their response back.
4. Be proactive. Getting survey cards returned oftentimes can be improved by two simple steps. First, tell the customers to expect it. They’re much more likely to fill it out if they know about it than they are if it just shows up one day. Second, get your paperwork into your manufacturer as quickly as possible. Studies show that the sooner the customer receives the survey — which isn’t sent out until the manufacturer receives the paperwork from you — the better the scores they’ll report.
5. Communicate. Remember that your employees drive your CSI scores. Hold regular meetings with them so that as a company, you can toss around CSI improvement ideas. At The Sportsman (Ranked 65), for example, staff regularly meets to discuss causes of customer discontent and outlines plans to change processes or to improve training to improve results.
6. Go to the source. The Sportsman also, on occasion, goes directly to the source — the customer — for in-depth discussion on how the company can better serve current and prospective buyers.
7. Create your own survey. Some boat builders are behind the times and don’t offer CSI information to their dealers. If that’s the case, create your own survey for those brands. If you work with a manufacturer who does, use the questions on their survey to craft your own. If you don’t have access to questions, there are outside companies who can help you.
8. Reward growth. Russo Marine (Ranked 7) is in the first phase of a new CSI program that will eventually reward every employee based on the increase of overall CSI scores.
9. Improve. Hall Marine Group (Ranked 4) uses a quarterly CSI Improvement Plan to develop action plans to improve CSI using information compiled from all the surveys. The written plan is provided to all dealership staff, and training is provided by the managers on how to incorporate the improvement plan into daily processes and tasks.
Develop repeat business
At Jet Ski of Miami and Fisherman’s Boat Group (Ranked 62), a newly developed Business Development Center coordinates customer contact and monitors customer service. In short, that department is charged with following up with customers to ensure that any and all issues are addressed. Trained and scripted representatives contact customers using a rigid, predefined format to ensure that any small problems are flushed and remedied quickly before they fester and become irreparable. “The increased customer contact allows the customer to know that we care and increases the level of our relationship,” explains Garrett Hayim, president. “A happy customer is twice as likely to return to our dealership for all future business.”
A Different view
In the spirit of exploiting improvement opportunities, there may be no quicker route than being your own worst critic. Such was the case with at least four Top 100 Dealers: Taylor’s Boats (Ranked 11), Link Rec (Ranked 22), Boats, Inc. (Ranked 37), and South Austin Marine (Ranked 98). These dealers garnered strong CSI scores from their suppliers, scoring an average of 98.5, 90.0, 98.5 and 95.55, respectively. These dealers also used their own internally created CSI surveys, however, which proved to be a tougher critic, giving them CSI scores of 96.4, 80.0, 92.4 and 95.0, respectively. Taylor Richards, owner of Taylor’s Boats, explains their common belief well: “We believe that marine dealers in most cases fall significantly short of what great customer service should be. That is why our company objective is to achieve 100-percent customer loyalty with service that is on par with, or exceeds, other industry leaders like Lexus, BMW and Nordstroms.”
Honesty is key
How easy all this would be if we could just influence customers to score us favorably, right? Wrong. That thought process defeats the entire purpose of the CSI concept — unless you’re interested in looking good vs. actually being good. We’ve heard all kinds of stories about how dealers try to influence their scores — from asking customers for perfect scores, to telling them how much only the best scores will help, to dealers buying CSI cards back from customers so they can fill them out “for them.” Now that’s extreme. Whether or not these are true, the only way to make progress with your business is to stress to the customer that their honest opinion is what matters.
1. Maintain profit and revenue base by preserving repeat business
a. identify customer complaints and fix them quickly
b. control selling expenses through customer retention/repeat business
c. increase customer communication by staying in touch
2. Increase profit by improving operational efficiencies
a. control selling expenses by leveraging e-mail communications
b. identify waste and errors driving down profit
c. identify improvement hotspots
d. identify performance gaps and set team goals
3. Increase revenues by addressing unmet needs
a. identify new customer needs
b. identify competitive threats
c. learn current market share by account and set new goals
Seven steps to a
1. Identify goals
2. Create survey
3. Distribute survey to customers
4. Collect data and analyze results
5. Create survey report
6. Review survey report
7. Send a “thank you” to customers summarizing results and actions
Tips to CSI
1. Tie surveys to your goals
2. Ask relevant questions
3. Make the process short and easy
4. Personalize your invitation and thank you
5. Let customers remain anonymous
6. Communicate expectations, like length
7. Benchmark results with peers whenever possible
Source: Survey Advantage