"It's too long and drawn out," Chambers says. "They lose their diagnostic ability. … We'd be better served with fewer questions."
Moreover, customers often weaponize CSI scores and use them as leverage for getting service discounts, he adds.
"Customers work the system," he says. "They know what CSI scores mean to a dealership, so they walk in and say, 'I have a survey in hand — what are you going to do for me?' "
Additionally, some dealers game the system by coaching customers about providing good CSI scores. That creates good scores that don't represent the dealership's actual level of service.
"That's reflected when we see that customer retention is much lower than customer satisfaction, often by quite a bit," Ducker Carlisle's Johnson points out. "It's totally counterintuitive … and OEMs often know there's a disconnect there — that the CSI scores don't give them the full picture."
In other instances, service advisers become the victims of customers with service expectations that can never be met. Bratcher recalls he once received a score of 75, which prompted a phone call to the customer to identify the reason for the score.
"The customer said that everything was perfect, but that he never gives out perfect scores because everyone has room for improvement," he says. "You get a comment like that and you kind of want to explode."
So if the CSI is antiquated and broken, what might be used instead?
Bratcher says a mechanism for obtaining customer feedback remains necessary.
"I'm afraid that if you take away the surveys, you also take away that voice of the customers," he says.
As such, Bratcher says he would favor a system that instead measures customer retention, which is a more accurate measure of how dealerships serve customers.
Chambers agrees. "If you keep getting repeat business over and over and over, you're doing something right," he says. "And that's very measurable."
Some industry observers endorse the Net Promoter Score, which centers on one primary question for consumers: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are they to recommend Business X to a family member or friend?
Asking just one question greatly increases response rates and the results are easily understood: a score of 9 or 10 means the customers are promoters; 7 to 8 makes them passive; and grades of 0 through 6 makes them detractors. Taking the percentage of promoters and subtracting the percentage of detractors produces a Net Promoter Score.
"I'm not a big fan," Chambers says. "I understand that it's short and easy to understand. But you shouldn't be penalized for receiving an 8 out of 10, which is a really good score — but not according to the NPS. It's just another number that can be manipulated."