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Setting the CSI bar

Late last November, the NMMA recognized 56 boat and engine manufacturer members for their excellence in customer satisfaction (CSI). As you might expect, a group so large included many, if not most, of the major boat and engine lines in our industry. A special recognition breakfast was even held in Miami to call attention to these achievements, and deservedly so.

Dubbed the Marine Industry CSI Awards, these manufacturers were singled out as companies that continuously strive to improve their CSI scores by measuring the satisfaction of their customers. NMMA said those receiving the CSI Awards had achieved a score of 90% or higher for the previous year. The CSI of each manufacturer was independently measured.

Now, 8 months later, dealers are at meetings with their manufacturers and CSI is supposed to be among the topics for discussion. No, not the manufacturer’s CSI from the Awards program in Miami, but the dealer’s CSI for the coming year. It’s supposed to be one of the main “negotiated exhibits” that the Special Task Force on Dealer/Manufacturer Agreements recommended be part of all dealer agreements.

Unquestionably, CSI has become a very important benchmark in our industry. Its improvement is a major goal of the entire Grow Boating initiative. CSI is the basis used by most manufacturers to set warranty reimbursement rates paid to dealers. So, clearly as the Special Task Force advised, it’s a measure that should be set by mutual agreement between the two parties. And now the CSI Awards program provides a sound basis for mutually establishing a CSI expectation in a dealer agreement. After all, wouldn’t it be considered unjustified for a manufacturer to demand a CSI level from a dealer that is higher than the CSI score achieved by that manufacturer? 

And that’s the way I see it, how about you?


8 comments on “Setting the CSI bar

  1. Doug Reimel

    CSI is a wonderful concept. However, every CSI questionaire is geared to fault the dealer. The CSI managers do not in any way communicate with the Manufacture. There is absolutly no way for the dealer to defend themselves against a consumer who knows how to manipulate the answers so they can get something out of it. The manufacture should build it right to begin with. The best engineers go to the Automotive or Aerospace industry. Boating gets whats left. The manufacture can’t send the correct parts for the product that they themselves build. This results in poor dealer CSI scores. In order to attract top talent that is needed in the summer we as dealers need to feed them in the winter. There has got to be a better way, I agree. But a great product gets great scores and little warranty making happy customers for everybody. Why is Grow Boating Inc.?????? I thought it was to grow boating not to make a proffit!

  2. Jim Burroughs

    Thank you Norm for the thoughts you have presented here. Dealers struggle to achieve CSI scores that will give us a fair retail dollar return for the warranty work we do daily. As a dealer, I won a top CSI award one year from a very well known builder–who consistently failed to pay their warranty claims in a timely manner; and I can show you the nice leather briefcase with my initials on it that was my “thank you”. That builder today is a shadow of its former self.
    Builders must practice what they preach and achieve themselves what they expect from their dealer network with regards to quality. I have said before in these same blogs that we cannot continue to be final assembly for the builders. Our builders must realize that Ford, Gm, and Chrysler are where they are today due to many of the same qc issues that we presently face in our industry.
    The CSI surveys that are being sent to buyers are focused totally on potential dealer issues. The questions being asked do not invite comments regarding the builder; but only what it is the dealer might do better.
    Price increases are twice or more yearly from the manufacturing segment and the increases have been automatic, year in and year out. Increases in builder attention to detail and quality would at least make the continuous price increase more palitable. This is not to say that progress has not been made by the builders; but not at the same rate they make mandatory for their dealers.
    Builders need to realize that they must to be willing to raise their expectations of themselves at least to the level of what they expect from their dealers; and if they are really serious about building quality products, then dealer CSI surveys would be totally unnecessary.
    The builders, to be fair to their dealers, should send us CSI surveys so that we might grade the builders. Then turnabout would truly be fair play.

  3. Tim Dowling

    I am president of a small company that provides warranty services for some manufacturers and dealers on Florida’s west coast. When I saw the companies who had recieved these awards I was shocked. Since in warranty issues my relationship is usually between the boat owner and the manufacturer I see first hand what companies provide excellent customer service and which ones think customer service is an unnecessary expense.

    I think the CSI awards have become worthless. It seems any company that doesn’t have a class action suit against it can qualify for one. Take Chris-Craft for example. They recieved the award for their smaller boats yet, we have a customer with a 2005 Roamer 40 that had multiple leaks in the foredeck due to poor manufacturing and Chris Craft refused to do anything. They stated in an email which I can send to you that they only have a 1 year warranty even though their website says they have a 10 year warranty. So my customer has paid over $40,000 to have his 2005 boat repaired and I can’t get Chris Craft to do anything about it. Nothing. Yet they get a customer service award. That’s not fair to the companies that earned that award.

  4. Vincent J. Petrella

    As one of the original “pilot” dealers in the Marine Industry Certified Dealer Program I could never quite fathom the rationale behind the CSI program in that it did not include a CSI index for the manufacturers’ performance as it relates to the manufacturers’ responsibility to the dealer. Let’s see, the dealer is responsible to the consumer, the manufacturer is responsible to the consumer; the dealer may be reprimanded and even cancelled for poor CSI results as a direct result of problems created by the manufacturer in the first place but, the manufacturer is not required to meet a certain level of competence as it relates to the manufacturer/dealer relationship. After all, dealers buy product from the manufacturers and unless I am mistaken, that make us customers of the manufacturers. That being the case, why are manufacturers not rated based on a combination of consumer CSI and dealer CSI?

    You cannot expect the dealer to live up to CSI standards set by a manufacturer when there is no measurable CSI from the dealer to hold the manufacturers’ feet to the fire.

    The relationship between the dealer and the manufacturer should be based on two basic principles. One, we are in business together; we are business partners and neither of us can survive without the other. Two, we buy your product and therefore we are your customers and we deserve to be treated with the same respect that you expect us to show to our mutual customers.

    If the manufacturer does not respect and address the concerns of their dealers with the same attention it does for their products end user, then the end user will never give our industry as a whole, the high CSI scores that our industry needs to maintain growth and prosperity.

    Vincent J. Petrella, CPYB
    Hellier Yacht Sales, Inc.

  5. David Pugsley

    . I whole heartily agree with Vin, Jim and Doug on the CSI issue.
    CSI is off track as a tool for improving both manufacture and dealer’s customer satisfaction. I think there should be two separate programs that address both dealer and manufacture. For the dealer perhaps “CSI” should stand for Customer Service Index instead of customer satisfaction index. For the manufacture, “MQI”, Manufactures Quality Index should be implemented. As we all know the “customer stops here”, meaning the dealer and all related problems with a new product is a direct reflection on the dealer. This being said I realize many dealers need work on executing proper customer satisfaction.

    I have been on the manufacturing side of the fence, so I recognize some issue they face.

    One of the first things I ask a manufacture who wants us to carry their line of boats is what is the warranty expense in relation to sales. Most give a range of .5% to 2%. For .5% this means for every $1,000,000 in product they ship to dealers they only have to spend $5,000 on warranty. 2% obviously is $20,000. The smaller the boat the less complicated the systems are so the .5% figure would work for smaller outboard boats not 45 footers. I have always found these numbers to be suspect and just a marketing tool. These numbers seem to be increasing. Decisions at the manufacturing level as to if they should ship a boat with known warranty issues is strictly financial. It’s not that hard to get a product 95% right but what is the cost to get the last 5%? More times than not it cost too much so they send it to the dealer and hope for the best. There are some situations where manufactures can’t test systems without putting the boat in the water, bow and stern thrusters for example, so they have to ship the boat without testing.

    When I was with Ericson Yachts in California 20 years ago we would put every boat coming off the line in a swimming pool and test all systems and then give the boat a shower for 5 or 6 hours. This dramatically improved quality going out the door but added lots of expense to the product. To stay competitive in the market place we had to stop the swimming pool practice.

    As to CSI. We sell new and brokerage boats. The new boat buyer gets a CSI form from the manufacture, and a separate CSI form from our internal CSI program. CSI on brokerage boats is completely different than new boats. Brokerage CSI focus’s on the service we provide both buyer and seller as well as asking were they saw us, what do we need to do to improve our service etc. With brokerage, it’s about the transaction not the product. CSI for new boats is about service and the quality of the product, which the dealer has limited control over. When you add in short boating seasons and the rush to launch new and brokerage boats in the spring, zero defects coming from a manufacture can mean the difference between good and evil CSI reports.
    CSI at the manufacturing level is being used the wrong way. Although one of the intension is to improve manufacturing defects it’s really used as a finger pointing tool with the dealer as the target. On the service side, small volume new boat dealers are at a distinct disadvantage against the “big Box” dealers purely because of number of body’s to fix manufactures defects. If boats coming out of the factories were close to zero defect this would put the small guy on a level playing field with the mega boat stores. Let’s not forget who built this industry for the past 60 years, the small mom and pop stores that provided excellent customer service with a smile.

    David Pugsley
    Brewer Yacht Sales
    Westbrook, Connecticut

  6. Jim Pinto

    Heres’s one for the record. As a very “Small and insignificant MerCruiser dealer” (this was reported to Brunswick by my Eastern region Rep George Crewel) who repowered over 200 boats with MerCruiser engine packages from 1992-2005, I was thinking how great a tool it was going to be to have a CSI rating on record to show all future customers. This I thought would greatly increase my business here and at the 5-6 Boat Shows I attended each year. I contacted Brunswick about the CSI program and all its benifits. I could not understand why I only had 15-16 reports.I was told that only the customers that replied to Brunswick mailers would be counted in my CSI report. AND..I was told ONLY BRUNSWICK owned boat owners would receive the CSI request card. This means every repower my shop did, reguardless of the cost the customer spent, DID NOT COUNT TOWARD MY BRUNSWICK CSI REPORT unless the boat was a “Brunswick” made boat! After rechecking my customer database, we found that at least half the boats were NOT Brunswick owned, therefore no CSI from them. I offered my Eastern Rep every customer name, address and phone number to directly get their input. But, as I found out it did not matter to them. They felt my CSI was not worthy, my MerCruiser engine sales were not high enough and the final kicker was that my shop was not needed in my area as a service only dealer. I asked them to put my dealerships CSI rating (over 90%), Total MerCruiser engine, drives and parts sales,(over $350K) against any dealer in my state. I actually sent out to every repower customer a “Brunswick” customer satifaction card reserved for only Brunswick customers. I asked each to be honest and any comments good or bad would be welcome. I received over 95% back along with many phone calls. Yes, there were some issues with customers that I never knew were unhappy. Isn’t that what CSI is all about? In closing there are so many issues with CSI, which I think is a joke, that need to be addressed. But as I was told many times by my MerCruiser rep, I was not a big enough player. Hey, how about all those NON BRUNSWICK OWNED boats that now have BRUNSWICK/MerCruiser power all over the counrty? How about all the big boat selling only dealers? Come on now, right here in CT you can find at least 10 big name dealers that could care less about service. Most that DO CARE, don’t sell new boats! So keep up the good work all of you and good luck with your CSI system. The real shops know the truth. WE REPAIR ALL OUR WARRANTY ISSUES AT OUR FULL SHOP LABOR. WE CAN”T PAY OUR TECH 50%-75% of HIS HOURLY PAY, CAN WE?

  7. Warren Lally

    Mr Pinto is right on ! I have been repairing boats (mercruiser product exclusively) for 20 plus years . I did at one time desire a service dealership status. Thru my mercury dealer friends I was introduced to the TAM at that time George Crewell. Right away there was a problem He informed me that I did not qualify as a dealer because I refused to sell new boats . When I informed him I was requesting a service only dealership he lauged at me and said there were already “plenty” of qualified dealers servicing mercury product in the area. I did decide to respond to his insult and informed him that was NOT the case . That in fact 75 percent of my buisiness was dis satisfied mercruiser customers who were fed up with trying to get warranty issues resolved or get the brand new boat they had purchased running for the entire season. Almost all the problems I encountered should have been addressed when these boats were commissioned /rigged . My exact words to these customers was ” give the place you bought it a chance to make it right for you ” When I make a mistake ( I am human ) I am happy to have the customer bring it back and give me a chance to make him or her happy . Again, most of these people were so disillusioned they left boating or became lifelong customers ! I threw Mr Crewell out of my shop and vowed to never associate myself with Brunswick.I know some are going to say this is NOT the norm however more and more of my many longtime mercury dealer friends had their dealer contracts terminated without cause or reason ..or gave up after the protected area`s they had earned after many years of loyalty were split up to the newbie`s willing to push brunswick product ! Fact !!
    I do not know what happened to this Crewell character ..he is probably in politics or running Brunswicks customer service division !!..Just my 2 cents



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