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CSI broken, obsolete: NADA head

November 23, 2010
Customer Satisfaction Index systems don't work as intended, have lost credibility with dealers and undermine dealership operations, the chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association charged recently. Since the 1970s, said NADA chairman Alan Starling, the industry has changed dramatically, "from emissions controls, safety, braking systems, entertainment systems, and so on. "Yet the CSI has stayed the same. And along the way, aonce-useful system has grown obsolete." Starling said American consumers have developed "survey fatigue," and CSI surveys are contributing to it with "long and cumbersome" questionnaires that often are filled out imprecisely or not returned at all. "Who has the time or patience to fill out a wordy, eightpage survey? No many people," Starling said. "Of those who do fill them out, how many will consider each question thoughtfully? Even fewer. "Who's going to be the most motivated to fill out the surveys? Probably the least satisfied customers." The result, said Starling, is a CSI system that does not reflect dealer performance. Starling said the survey questions typically do not distinguish between satisfaction with the vehicle, which dealers can't control, and satisfaction with the dealership experience, which they directly control. "Lumping vehicle quality with sales and service cannot provide a true and fair picture of dealer performance. It's apples and oranges," Starling said. The survey results are used increasingly as a key factor in dealer evaluation and incentive programs. Manufacturers, Starling said, must "take a fresh look at its entire CSI process with an eye toward making changes that reflect the current marketplace." The NADA has begun discussions with manufacturers on the CSI system.