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I came across a statistic recently that should keep you up at night – “Bain & Company’s research has shown that in business after business, 60% to 80% of customers who defect to a competitor said they were satisfied or very satisfied on the survey just prior to their defection.” Let that sink in for a minute.

Our customers told us they were satisfied, so where did they go? Why did they leave?

The first problem may well be that we’re measuring satisfaction with a broken tape measure. Most auto dealers today boast CSI scores well above 90%. That’s an incredibly impressive number! Should we all pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve reached the pinnacle of customer service? If that were the case we’d never have to worry about customer retention because that level of service should sell all future business – right?

But let’s be honest about this, because your bottom line is riding on the truth. We know that a target of 95% satisfaction is common for automotive dealers. We know that pay plans, bonuses, incentives, holdbacks, inventory – you name it – are tied to these scores. We know that anything less than a perfect 10 is considered a failure. We know that salespeople will beg for high marks or even sweeten deals in exchange for perfect results – heck, their job depends on it! We know that deals even get turned down based on the threat of a low score – it takes too many perfect scores to make up for that one bad one. Can we then agree that there is too much going on with this measurement tool to utilize it as any useful gauge of true customer satisfaction?

Dave Illingworth, former Toyota and Lexus exec puts it best: “The only meaningful measure of satisfaction is repurchase loyalty.”

We measure customer satisfaction, but what we really want is customer loyalty. Going back to that first quote from Bain and Company, satisfaction no longer will cut it. With an investment as large as a vehicle purchase, we need to move well beyond simply satisfying our customers. Customers have an abundance of choices today. They are doing their research, they know the product they are interested in purchasing – often times even better than the salesperson. They can buy that exact car from any number of dealerships. The prices have to be fairly similar in a competitive market. How do we stand apart?

What wins you the business now and in the future is rewarding customers who choose your dealership over the competition.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series. We’ll continue to explore customer satisfaction, what it means in relation to customer retention, and how important creating customer loyalty is to your bottom line.

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