CSI and Customer Loyalty: They are not the same thing.



I have read much recently about CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) and Customer Loyalty. There is a school of thought that says these terms are interchangeable--that they indicate the same information about customer feelings and loyalty.

I disagree.

The Customer Satisfaction Index is measuring a moment or an experience. How was that specific oil change? Was that Service Advisor knowledgeable and welcoming. Was that specific service completed in the time they designated?

Customer Loyalty goes a little deeper than that. Loyalty measures the BIG picture of customer service--not just the moment. How do you feel about the dealership as a whole? How have you been treated overall at the dealership?

I purchased a car from a local dealership and had an amazing experience. At that time, my children were younger and had to come with me while I finalized my search options and visited dealerships. As I walked in with my three children (11 and under), the receptionists welcomed them, guided them to the media room with Play Station, X Box, warm cookies, a popcorn maker, and movies. Oh, and unlimited pop--which I had to set boundaries on. This was AMAZING! She told me to go look at vehicles, the kids were good, and she would contact me if she needed anything.

I was sold.

I would find a car to purchase there regardless.

Fast-forward 5 months. I am getting my oil changed and some basic mileage work done. I get there at the appointed time and begin to wait.

And Wait.

The Service Writer came up to me and after quite some time and told me it would not be much longer.

But it was…..

Now I am late for work,  frustrated, and annoyed with the guy that keeps promising me we will be done soon.

When I filled out my satisfaction survey, I was quite unsatisfied with that particular moment in time. However, I was still a HUGE fan of the dealership, the customer service I received on the front end, and how they treated my family as I shopped.

My CSI was low, but my Customer Loyalty was still there.

After they received my survey concerning the service I received, I was immediately contacted by the Service Department. They apologized for the wait and offered the next oil change for free. The call alone made me feel listened to and valued. The moment of poor CSI was erased by great customer service and excellent communication. Measuring customer opinion of a service without taking action is pointless, and may actually hurt your business more than anything else. They must have known this and did an excellent job of reaching out, listening, and offering a solution.



  • Do the little things well. The customer experience I had when purchasing my vehicle made an amazing impression on me. So much so that I still tell friends about it--especially friends with kids. Think about what will make customers more at ease, more able to spend time at the dealership and look around. Those little things make a huge difference.
  • Turn a negative into a positive. My experience in the Service Area was not stellar. But they did try to make up for it. The phone call, the sincere apology and the fact that the person took the time to listen to me made all the difference in the world. Don’t miss those opportunities.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Since the “incident” (as we now call it), I have never had to wait longer than estimated. Make sure that your Service Writer or Advisor is talking with the technicians, creating reasonable estimated wait times, and regularly updates your customer. This not only makes the customer feel valued, but also keeps them in the know.