Behind The Numbers

Six years ago, CSI was virtually unheard of among boating businesses. The industry-wide program, facilitated by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, had yet to be introduced, interest in customer service was sporadic, and measurement of customer satisfaction was almost nonexistent.
That was then. This is now.
Through what NMMA CSI guru Terry Leitz says are the three phases of CSI integration — awareness, understanding, corrective actions — there has been a groundswell of acceptance for the use of CSI scores, the supposed percentage of customers who are satisfied with the sales, service and follow-up processes of the boating experience. The importance placed on this number still varies among business owners and consumers, however. And the format in which the number is being tracked differs among boat builders, consultants and dealers.
But the simple fact is that the industry needs to move as quickly as possible through those first two stages en route to using CSI for its intended purpose: making the boating experience better. There are still boat builders that don’t track customer satisfaction and dealers that don’t really care what that number supposedly represents — all of their customers are 100-percent satisfied, of course. And that’s a shame.
Those companies are quickly being left behind. For those who are already in the game, merely measuring CSI has given way to an onslaught of strategies for improving the number. Check that — improving the customer’s experience.
Love it or hate it, measuring CSI is not about the numbers. Sure, it’s handy when it comes to determining the extension of dealer contracts, or maybe warranty reimbursement, or whether to reward a dealer with a plaque or other recognition. Those rewards (or punishments, as the case may be), in my opinion, only give way to undue influence on the numbers. Hold those numbers over somebody’s head, and they’ll go to great lengths — sometimes unethical lengths — to make sure it’s a good number.
What matters most, of course, is that we’re improving the customer’s experience.
Through Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealer program, we see the business of a marine dealer from a perspective beyond those numbers. Sure, these dealers use the numbers. Oftentimes, there are multiple CSI numbers: measured by boat brand, by model year, by quarter, by department, by sales rep, by technician, by transaction and so on. But they also use detailed strategies, special initiatives and best practices to guarantee customer satisfaction.
Every time I see Leitz he jokes that we should change our name to CSI Magazine. He believes the CSI program is that important. But while we’re not going to make that leap just yet, we are going to give CSI the attention it deserves. Beginning this month, you’ll see pages in every issue this year dedicated to tips on how we, as an industry, can improve our customer satisfaction.
But remember: It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the effort behind them.

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