More than 11 years ago, I purchased a new home, built by the local Centex (now Pulte) division.  That’s a long time ago, but one event feels as if it happened yesterday.  We had been in the home for a few weeks, and the “punch list” team came in to remedy those small problems that remained after we closed on the newly built property.  You know, a crooked molding here, a crack in a drywall seam there.  Small stuff.  The biggest deal that I recall was a door that didn’t quite fit in the frame, so the bolt didn’t quite fit through the strike plate, and the wood tended to stick in the upper corner of the door jamb rather than swing freely when opening or closing (although that symptom varied).  My fear was that the whole house was built crooked, but from corner to corner they cheated so that it all fit, except all of the imprecisions met up at an impossibly non-right angle in this room that no door would ever fit.  (What do I know about home building?)

The team showed up early in the morning, probably 8 am or so, as I was on my way out to start my day at work.  We briefly went over the items on the list, our plan was to let the workers have the run of the house, and I’d check it out when I got home at the end of the day.  Before getting started, the main guy in charge corners me and remarks that I work in the car business, so I know all about those darn “customer satisfaction surveys,” and, well, he’d really be much appreciated if I were to fill one out right now, before I left, telling his people that I was “completely satisfied,” and they’d get down to the work at hand.

Now, as a point of clarification, yes, in fact, as the sales manager/general manager of two Saturn dealerships over the preceding 10 years, I did have a great deal of familiarity with what Saturn called “standards” scores.  CSI was an “old world” term, and connoted just that kind of cajoling and/or arm twisting in order to get your customer satisfaction index where it needed to be.

Standards, on the other hand, were impartial measures of how well a Saturn retailer conformed to a thoroughly mapped-out process in both sales and service, and the customer scoring the retail facility was asked specifically if any personnel sought to influence the outcome of the standards survey in any way that felt less than comfortable — a yes score there was deducted from the statistical index produced by the other affirmative survey questions.


Needless to say, 11 years later, I’m not at Saturn any longer.  And my door still does not fit into its jamb, nor does its bolt clear past the outline of the strike plate hole.  Oh, it varies, from season to season, based on the physics of wood and drywall expansion and contraction due to differences in heat and humidity, I guess.  And at Chevrolet, we don’t have quite the same BS detector built into our “CSI” surveys that Saturn did.

All the more reason that I take pride in the latest CSI report, where I scored a “top box” 100% completely satisfied three-month rating.  I still don’t show anyone the “right way” to fill out the survey, or coach a car buyer that “anything less than completely satisfied is a failing grade,” or any other canned sentiment that rings falsely to my own ears.

Granted, I don’t want a mediocre score, either.  So instead of simly acting as if the survey did not exist, I keep mindful of it — I just don’t worry my customer about it.

What I do aim for is something I’ve been referring, for lack of a better description, to as being truly helpful, as a means of making a lasting impression, and from that a sale,  following up after the sale and offering non-stop good customer service along the way.  If I ever finish this book that Renee Stuart sent me, I’d probably find better words to describe that approach.  Jay Baer calls it Youtility, and here’s his book:


Essentially, it’s as its subtitle reads, why smart marketing is about help, not hype.  Or, in the context of our dealership’s understood need to see high levels of customer service throughout the organization, it’s about taking that one-on-one helpfulness that actually earns the highest rankings of CSI to the next level and providing services as a new and more trusted form of marketing, something other than self-serving, boastful claims.  Rather than taking the traditional Sunday full-color newsprint advertising and migrating it to a web page.  Or pushing television ads onto social media.

Instead, it’s about winning hearts and minds by actually serving in a welcome and memorable way.  Here’s a great review.

by Joshua Michael Friedman

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