The Secret to Great CSI - BodyShop Business

The Secret to Great CSI

Micromanage the customer's experience and you'll boost your CSI scores, as well as improve customer service and retention.

You’ve just completed the extensive repair of a customer’s “high end” European sedan. Your team has done a great job reconstructing this heavily damaged, complex vehicle. You have every right to be proud. The customer inspected the repair, accepted the vehicle and drove away with a smile!

Two days later, the Customer Service Index (CSI) evaluation arrives. The customer only gave you a 7 on the quality score! That car was perfect! They really burned you on customer service, saying the repair took longer than promised and only giving you a 5 when asked if they would refer family or friends to your shop.

“The idiots!” you scream. “They don’t understand! We had to wait for insurance re-inspections, fight for repair processes, and the parts on those Euro cars can take weeks!” You ball up the CSI evaluation, toss it in the trash and wonder why customers don’t appreciate or understand what you do. Your CSI takes another hit. Get ready for another call from the DRP coordinator!

You’re Not Alone
Don’t feel alone, this has happened to all of us. That’s why we need to understand and manage CSI. Yes, you heard me: manage CSI. Customer satisfaction surveys measure the customer’s perception of their experience with your company. To manage your CSI, you must manage the customer’s experience. Remember, customer satisfaction happens in the customer’s  head, not yours.

Your collision center’s level of customer satisfaction is critical to future success. Many in the industry understand the importance of customer satisfaction and utilize third-party vendors to measure their CSI. CSI is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI), telling your shop’s management what’s being done right and wrong from the customer’s perspective. Like any KPI, CSI can be measured and even managed.

There was a time when we didn’t see the need to measure customer satisfaction. “Hey, I know they’re happy, they keep coming back!” was a comment frequently heard. But today’s collision repairers operate in a significantly different environment. Telling customers, vendors, insurers and other referral sources that you have happy customers is no longer enough – you have to prove it.

CSI Providers
There are several CSI providers working in the collision industry.  While there are differences, they all provide independent third-party samples of customer perception of quality, professionalism, on-time delivery and other factors contributing to their experience of dealing with a collision repair center. CSI can be measured internally by the “do it yourself” method, but outside entities such as insurance companies may question the integrity of those survey results.

Few shop KPIs are as important as CSI scores. CSI provides valuable “voice of the customer” feedback, which forms the basis of continuous improvement programs and guides lean implementation. It can provide the foundation of an ongoing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, designed to keep customers referring other customers to your business. It may factor into your standing on an insurance DRP, or where you’re positioned on their “list.” It may also factor into employee and management compensation plans.

If you’re not currently measuring CSI, check out the industry vendors and decide which one provides the service you’re looking for. Some simply provide CSI data, while others use CSI data to provide a basis for ongoing CRM programs. Most use phone surveys, while others use mail or a combination of phone, mail and Internet. There are plenty of choices, but be sure that a sufficient number of customers are contacted and that the contacts are random.

Many collision shop owners and managers choose a CSI vendor due to insurance relationships. If you’re a DRP for ABC Insurance, and ABC uses XYZ CSI, you may choose to use XYZ CSI for your overall CSI service. Look for companies that can support an automatic transfer of customer data from your management system. Avoid depending solely on insurance-provided CSI data as it doesn’t provide a sufficient sampling of your overall customer base.

No Cherry Picking
Don’t be tempted to find ways to “not submit” information to the CSI provider on customers known to be unhappy. I’ve heard the logic, “Why pay to find out someone is angry? I already know that!” Not a good idea. While you may see a better score through “cherry picking,” you’re not getting accurate data. The input from the unhappy customer can tell you how to best improve your service.

Get as many surveys completed as possible. If one person gave you a “1” on the “refer family or friends” question and you have four others who gave you a “10” (total of five surveys), your score will be 80 percent. But if you have that same unhappy customer with the “1” and nine others that give you a “10,” your score will be 90 percent. Again, don’t cherry pick. Get a lot of surveys!

Instant Feedback
CSI services provide a means of instant feedback if a customer has voiced dissatisfaction with the repair process. When you receive faxes or email notices after an unhappy customer has been surveyed, don’t discount what the customer says caused their dissatisfaction.

Avoid the temptation to read the notice, explain away the issue, decide the customer is nuts and throw it into the closest recycle box. Instead, contact the customer immediately and attempt to correct the problem. If the issue can’t be corrected, offer a sincere apology. Let them talk and recount their experience. Remember, CSI is a measurement of their perception, not yours. Studies show that an unhappy customer whose situation has been corrected can be one of your strongest referral sources!

Score Management

Your CSI score can be managed and improved by focusing on what the customer feels is important, not what we think is important.

Remember the previously mentioned example of the great repair on the difficult Euro car that received a poor review by the customer? The shop focused on the quality of repair and did a great job fixing the vehicle but a poor job managing the customer’s experience.

Customers today don’t care about the repair. Yes, they can see a really poor job and, when faced with one of those, they really care. But generally we all do a good job repairing vehicles. Let’s face it, unless the repair is really poor, the customer doesn’t care or understand what went into repairing their vehicle.

Today’s customer evaluates the quality of the repair by how they were treated by the people in the repair shop.  Repair quality is a given. That’s what the customer expects. To increase CSI scores, we need to focus on what the customer perceives as important by managing the customer experience.

CSI Rule # 1: Focus on customer communication.  
Most CSI vendors ask customers if the shop “kept them informed” during the repair. The “kept informed” score is the key driver to improve CSI scores. Define the words “kept informed” (or whatever verbiage your CSI vendor uses) at the beginning of the process.

Ask the customer: “How would you like to be kept informed during the repair?” Take note of their response and contact them on the timeline and via the method defined by the customer.

Have you ever had the customer just tell you to “Call me when it’s done?” So you call when it’s done and the customer doesn’t feel that they were kept informed and your CSI suffers. When the customer responds with, “Call me when it’s done,” respond with, “I like to call my customers every other day to keep them informed.  Will that work for you?” That defines “kept informed” in the mind of the customer and defines acceptable performance. Define “kept informed” with your customer, let them determine how often and by what method they wish to be kept informed, then do it.

Some customers will request status updates via email or text.  That’s fine, but check state regulations and company policy regarding text or email usage. If you’re going to use email or text, consider asking that an “electronic communication permission form” be signed by the customer at drop-off.

The best communication method is still the phone, especially if the news is bad. Getting a text saying, “Your car won’t be ready today,” leaves a bad impression in the customer’s mind. Calling the customer with updates allows for interaction and provides a more positive experience.

In any case, the goal of customer communication is to avoid requiring the customer to call the shop at any time during the repair. Pro-actively communicate with your customers.
Improving your customer’s perception of “kept informed” will increase the customer perception of quality, their perception of “on time” and their decision to refer family or friends to your collision center in the future.

CSI Hint #1: Call your customers before they call you. Understand that a customer’s call to check status is an indication that your customer update system isn’t working! Develop a system to contact every customer every other day – at a minimum. Changes in status should generate an immediate phone call, not a text or email.

CSI Rule #2: Manage the customer’s perception of “on time.”
The first step to improving your “on-time” score is to keep the customer informed and update the target delivery date every time that date changes. Then, at delivery, remind the customer of your track record of keeping them posted as the repairs progressed and that you actually did hit your last target delivery date.

Avoid giving target dates! Whenever possible, just don’t give a date.

Several years ago, we had a poor “on-time” score in my shop. We listened to each of our estimators present estimates to customers and found that we almost always said, “This will take three or four days,” without the customer even asking. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! The customer only heard the “three days,” so when we completed the car on the fourth day, we thought we were on time, but the customer figured we were a day late. By simply dropping the estimated promise date from our sales presentation, our “on-time” score increased 10 points!

If the customer asks for a projected completion date, provide as accurate a date as possible, with one day added. For example, if you see a three-day repair, tell the customer the repair will take four days. If you’re done in three, you’ve exceeded the customer’s expectations. Finish it in four days and, from the customer’s perspective, you’re still on time.

Obviously, target delivery dates change during repairs for many reasons. Whenever the target delivery date changes, call the customer to update them on the status. Always use verbiage such as, “As a result of this parts delay, your target delivery date will be next Monday.”

At delivery, remind the customer that you updated them with current target dates during the repair and you did deliver on schedule.

CSI Hint #2: Manage the customer’s perception of on time, give yourself an extra day and remind the customer that you did deliver on time, based on your last status update.

CSI Rule #3: Provide an active delivery, preparing the customer for the CSI survey.
How are repaired vehicles delivered to the customer at your repair facility? The most common way is to ask the customer, “Did you see your car? Is everything okay? Let’s get the paperwork done and we’ll get you on your way.” That delivery system may get the cars out, but it won’t help increase your CSI.

Schedule vehicle delivery so that the proper amount of time can be spent with the customer reviewing the repairs, completing the paperwork and prepping the customer for their CSI call.

Take time to review the repairs with the customer, pointing out what was done. If you agreed to do something extra, point it out to the customer during the delivery. If there is a minor flaw or adjustment that requires repair, correct it right then! Ask the customer if they’re happy with the repairs. When the customer is satisfied and you’ve confirmed that they’re satisfied, you can begin to improve your CSI scores.

Restate and reaffirm that you’ve fulfilled your promise to keep them informed during the repair process. For example:

“Mrs. Smith, when you brought your car in for an estimate, I told you that I call all of my customers every other day. Have I fulfilled my promise to keep you informed?”

Confirm that the customer perception of your facility, and their experience with your facility, is positive and that they feel your customer service met or exceeded their expectations. For example:

“Mrs. Smith, did our customer service meet or exceed your expectations?”

Next, confirm that the vehicle was done on time. If you missed the initial date, confirm that you met the adjusted date. For example:

“Mrs. Smith, do you feel that your vehicle was done on time?”

“No, I was expecting it back yesterday.”

“That’s right, Mrs. Smith, but I did tell you on Tuesday about the parts issue and we revised the target delivery date to today. So we missed the initial target date, but I kept you informed and we did hit the adjusted target date.”

“Yes, you did.”

Ask if your customer will refer family and friends to your facility. This has been referred to as the “the ultimate question” because it’s that important! For example, “Mrs. Smith, as a result of your experience with our repair facility, would you feel comfortable referring family or friends to our collision repair center in the future?”

Finally, prep the customer for the CSI call. For example:

“Mrs. Smith, I’m thrilled that you’re happy with our repairs and customer service and I’m proud that you’re satisfied to the point that you will refer family and friends to our repair facility. Customer satisfaction is so important to us that we have an outside, independent third-party contact our customers to measure our customer satisfaction. You may be receiving a call asking how we did.

“Please take a moment to share your experience with the CSI technician. It shouldn’t take more than a minute. My goal is to earn 10’s on all survey questions. If there is anything I could have done better, please let me know.”

Whether your CSI system uses mailed forms, faxes or online feedback methods, prep the customer on the methodology of your survey and stress how important it is to gather their input. If it’s a mail-in system, provide the customer with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope and follow up in two days with a phone call asking the customer to complete and mail the CSI survey.

Create systems and word tracks to:
1. Systematically maintain contact with the customer during the repair process.
2. Manage the customer’s perception of “on-time.”
3. Create an active delivery confirming satisfaction with customer service, the repair quality, on-time performance and prepping the customer for the CSI follow-up. Doing these things will increase your CSI score, but these things have to be done every day, with every customer, every time.


CSI scores can be managed and improved. CSI and NPS are KPI’s that have a dramatic effect on overall collision repair facility volume as well as managers’ and estimators’ compensation. Managing your CSI should not be considered “cheating” your CSI. Rather, it should be looked at as improving your customer service and retention.

Net Promoter Score: A New Concept
New to collision industry CSI is the concept of calculating a Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The NPS is a measurement of the percentage of customers who are likely to “promote” your business. Generally, the “refer to family and friends” question is used to calculate the NPS, which is growing in importance with OEM certification programs and insurance companies.

“Promoters” are those customers who give your shop 9’s and 10’s when asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that you would refer the repair center to family or friends?” “Detractors” are those who are not likely to refer you to family and friends and are generally the 0’s to 6’s when asked the “ultimate question.” In calculating NPS, 7’s and 8’s are neutral. They don’t hurt, but they don’t help, either.

Here is a formula for calculating NPS:

Percentage of Promoters – Percentage of Detractors = Net Promoter Score

For example, let’s say you have 100 surveys. Approximately 60 percent of those surveyed gave you a 9 or 10 on the “refer to family and friends” question. Twenty percent gave you a 0 to 6 score on that same question. Your NPS is 40 percent (60 percent promoters – 20 percent detractors = 40 percent).

The goal in NPS is to move those 7’s and 8’s to 9’s and 10’s. In the above example, 20 percent of those surveyed gave the shop a 7 or 8 on the “refer” question. If we could move those 7’s and 8’s to 9’s, the NPS would increase to 60 percent. (60 percent promoters + 20 percent 7’s and 8’s moved to 9’s – 20 percent detractors = 60 percent). In addition, you can try to move some of those pesky detractors into the neutral category and get those 5’s and 6’s into 7’s.

How do you manage your NPS? Since the entire number is generated from the customer’s response to one question, focus on that question at delivery:

“Mrs. Smith, we strive to achieve 100 percent customer satisfaction. Your evaluation of our performance is very important. Please take a moment to provide your feedback when contacted. My personal goal is to achieve 10’s when my customers are asked if they will refer to family and friends. Have I earned that score from you?”

There’s a lot of information about NPS on the Internet. As noted above, NPS is new to the collision industry. To calculate NPS, the “refer” question must be asked on a scale of 1 to 10. NPS scores above 65 percent should be considered healthy.

Hank Nunn worked in the collision repair industry in a variety of roles for more than 35 years. He is now retired. If you would like more information on the subject you just read about, email BodyShop Business Editor Jason Stahl at [email protected].

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