Certification becomes more dealer-friendly

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

The Marine Industry Certified Dealership program is evolving. The initiative, which the National Marine Manufacturers Association had run until it was recently taken over by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, is going to be offered in tiers now instead of a one-size-fits-all format.

Grow Boating started the program about 2004 to recognize that dealers were doing a good job taking care of customers, says MRAA president Matt Gruhn.

“The concept was, ‘Hey, listen, we don’t want to send a bunch of customers generated from this marketing program to dealers who don’t take good care of them.’ That was the original premise,” Gruhn says. “The program we had yesterday was a great program — it helped dealers grow, helped them strengthen their businesses and it helped them focus where they needed to focus. It really overshot that original goal because there are a lot of dealers out there who are very good with customer satisfaction who didn’t want to go through the whole process.”

That process has been fairly structurally based and focused on the process-mapping of systems that didn’t always translate to the customer service realm, Gruhn says. So the MRAA did an audit of more than 100 dealer surveys from 2012 to see what some of the complaints were, says Sonja Moseley, the new hire the MRAA has tapped to spearhead the MICD’s evolution.

The main challenges dealers cited were accessibility, cost and value.

“The original program had 72 requirements, and it was all or nothing,” Moseley says. That version cost dealers $2,800 the first time and $1,500 every year thereafter to become recertified.

“Now we’re breaking that into three different steps of 10 standards each,” Moseley says. “Each focuses on something different.” All levels include the same first standard — pre-certification assessment — as well as the same 10th step, which is performance planning.

The first tier, which costs $575, is focused on customer satisfaction, Moseley says. “Changing from almost $3,000 to $575 for the first tier is night and day. I think that will be a big incentive for those who fell out of the program because of the high cost to get back in.”

The standards unique to that level are:

• Marine industry customer bill of rights

• Dress code

• CSI tracking and trending

• Employee job descriptions

• Education and training

• CRM process

• Quality assurance process

• Facility check sheet

The second tier emphasizes operational quality and costs $935. The standards for that level will be:

• Employee handbook

• Employee reviews

• Sales process

• Internet process

• Service process

• Parts process

• Performance process

• Education and training

The final tier, which will still earn dealerships the Five Star Certified Dealership designation, costs $1,330 and focuses on best practices.

Those standards include:

• Employee satisfaction survey

• Facility standards

• Website standards

• F&I process

• Accounting process

• Follow-up process

• Education and training

• Mystery shopping

An MICD Fast-Track program costs $2,465 and will help dealers take a direct route to Five Star Certification. Rather than reaching the highest level of certification through a three-step process, the MICD Fast Track allows dealerships to move straight to a Five Star Certified Dealership with one process and 24 standards.

Additionally, dealerships will be required to recertify only every two years instead of annually, nearly halving the recurring costs. The price for that is $1,645, and MRAA members get $50 off each tier, $100 off the Fast Track and $50 for recertification.

A select mix of dealerships is in a pilot version of the new program that was set to soft-launch at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., and fully launch early next year, Moseley says.

“The biggest thing we’re getting to now is the value piece of the program,” she says. “We had a lot of dealers saying, ‘I get the program, I see the need for best practices, but why should I keep going through the program?’ It was a yearly program, so it’s now every other. But we want to add tangible incentives that will be tied to every tier. We want to make it such that members feel like they can’t imagine how they did without these benefits and they will more than pay for the cost of certification. We’re asking ourselves, ‘For those members who reinvest, what do we do above and beyond in terms of benefits?’ Because they are high-level members, so what can we offer them to help provide value?”

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue.

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