At Vital Insights, we see thousands of completed customer experience surveys each day, and what stands out is just how little differentiation there appears to be between dealerships on many of the key metrics. In many cases, over 95% of dealers achieve ratings of 10 on scaled questions.

This causes problems for two main reasons. First, it makes it very difficult to separate the truly good performers from the poorer performers; and second, it makes it more difficult to get to the root causes of good or bad performers so that action can be taken.

This is often referred to as “score compression” and can really reduce the value of the information we get back from customers. If a solution could be found, the return on customer experience measurement would certainly improve.

What are the main causes of score compression?

In some ways, it’s not surprising that we end up with CSI or SSI scores in the high 90s across the board. Coaching is still very much part of the game, whether it’s done subtly or openly.

The common practice of providing incentives on CSI or SSI scores naturally leads dealerships to chase the score, not address the behaviour. This, together with coaching is another reason why we see so little differentiation.

The ‘Wrong’ Questions
We’ve become much better at asking the right questions the right way by being direct and clear. Most surveys we see now have consistent rating scales (numeric or verbal) and are generally unambiguous. In many cases, numeric scales are “anchored” to provide the respondent with a framework for reference. However, many of these approaches still result in very little discrimination than between dealers, so there is still a lot of room for improvement.

What can we do about it?

Include different questions
Most of the questions we ask in surveys are predictable, rational and do not necessarily get at some of the real reasons a customer experience is good or bad. At Vital Insights, we always give the customer the opportunity to provide additional insight to a rating with an unstructured comment. This brings out some of the more important emotional feedback that many surveys fail to do and it’s in the context of the rating question.

Analyze the data differently
When you’re faced with data compression, look at different ways of analyzing data to pull dealers apart in terms of their performance. “Top 2 boxes” certainly won’t cut it. Even “top box” doesn’t help any more. Looking at the mean scores or weighting response categories (with positive and negative weights) can be a very effective way of uncovering broader trends in the data. We also recommend what we call decision framing – identifying the decisions that have to be made based on the data, rather than starting off with the question or the rating scale and fitting that into the survey.

Ask questions in a different order – this does make a difference!
If you ask an overall satisfaction score up front, the response will often be more positive than if you ask it at the end of the survey. This just makes the compression issue worse!

Incentivize on actions, not scores
Incentive Programs, when implemented for an OEM, can effectively result in changes in behaviours and processes at the dealership level. However, instead of incentivizing on only top scoring metrics, focus on incentivizing on actions, such as issue resolution, customer follow-up, and actual customer loyalty.

Through our consulting and analytics services, Vital Insights can advise on which programs to include, when and how to implement them, and what metrics to incentivize based on your objectives.

And most importantly, talk to us!
At Vital Insights, we provide access to in-house resources who have significant experience in both the auto industry and in customer satisfaction research, who will act as your dedicated ‘Data Scientists’. We have embedded expertise on staff, and will develop standard and custom analytical approaches that add deep insight into customer feedback. Our recommendations are based on a strong knowledge of the dealership environment and the automotive landscape, so we have the perfect formula of automotive OE and retail and research and analytics know-how. 


Enprecis Group Inc. is a leading designer, developer, and distributor of innovative enterprise-class daily tracking and Customer Experience Management (CEM) software dedicated to the automotive landscape. Foresight™ and Foresight for mobile are the foundations of Enprecis Group’s CEM platform, offering real-time, continuous issue resolution management to clients and customers around the world. With a dedication to innovation and forward-thinking product development, Enprecis Group continues its mission of building revolutionary CEM products for leading automotive brands worldwide. Enprecis Group is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

For more information about Foresight™ visit

Richard Cooper and Ruby Gidda

Enprecis Group Communication Team