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Improving Your Body Shop’s CSI Score Starts with Knowing the Survey Questions

In the collision repair business, few key performance indicators (KPIs) are as important as CSI scores – especially for shops that rely heavily on DRP work.


Josh Cable has 17 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, B2B publications and marketing organizations. His areas of expertise include U.S. manufacturing, lean/Six Sigma and workplace safety and health.

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In the collision repair business, few key performance indicators (KPIs) are as important as CSI scores – especially for shops that rely heavily on DRP work.

CSI (customer satisfaction index) surveys measure customers’ perception of their experience with your shop.

While shops can’t control what customers say on their CSI surveys, Matthew McDonnell has found that the well-worn maxim, “If you can manage it, you can measure it,” still applies.

The key is knowing the survey questions and “studying these questions with your staff,” McDonnell said during a Feb. 16 presentation at the Midwest Auto Body Trade Show in Altoona, Iowa.


“We are absolutely crazy about telling our customers that there’s a survey coming, we want them to take it, we want their feedback and if there’s anything we can do to improve, please let us know,” said McDonnell, who owns Big Sky Collision Network, a three-store MSO in Montana. “If there’s anything that we have done to not deserve a 10 out of 10, let us know right now – we’ll fix it.”

Every day, Big Sky employees can view the company’s CSI score and other KPIs on TV monitors in each shop. Those KPIs are tied to employees’ bonuses, so they have a financial incentive to pay attention to them – and integrate them into their daily job tasks.


Knowing the survey questions helps Big Sky employees proactively manage the company’s CSI score.

“Use the words on the survey,” McDonnell said. “That’s your map. And it isn’t hard. If I can do it in Montana, you guys can do it.”

As an example, Question 4 on Big Sky’s CSI survey asks if the customer was kept informed during the entire process – and Big Sky employees emphasize that during every communication with customers.

“If you’re kept informed throughout the repair process and every time I call my customer I say, ‘Hey Mr. Jones, this is Matthew at Big Sky Collision Center, I’m just calling to keep you informed, keep you informed, keep you informed,’ and I call him nine times, when that survey comes out and asks if he was kept informed, he’s going to say, ‘He definitely kept me informed.’”

Matthew McDonnell, owner of Big Sky Collision Network in Montana: “Use the words on the survey. That’s your map.”

Big Sky strives for scores in the high 90s on each CSI survey question. When McDonnell noticed scores in the 80s for Question 3 – “Was your vehicle ready when promised?” – the MSO started adding a few extra days to the estimated completion date for each repair.

Now Big Sky’s CSI score for Question 3 is 100 percent, McDonnell said, “because we always have a couple extra days at the end of the repair.”


One final thought: McDonnell believes that it’s going to become even more important to measure and manage CSI, as OEMs incorporate CSI and other metrics into their criteria for maintaining certification. If shops fall short of the OEMs’ requirements for certain KPIs, “they’ll come take that plaque right off your wall,” McDonnell said.

He noted that Big Sky is part of a pilot program for Fiat Chrysler that rates shops based on their CSI scores and other KPIs.

“I’m not saying this is going to happen in the next five years,” McDonnell added. “It’s coming – it’s here. [The OEMs] will have certification processes with teeth.”

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