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An Offer We Can’t Refuse

I always tip my hat to any dealer willing to stand out in a crowded boat-show setting. It’s not an easy task, but it can be rewarding for the dealer and his customers.

For the recent Orlando Boat Show, the Lewis family, owners of Mt. Dora Boating Center, decided to shake off their traditional show display and introduce a unique approach to exhibiting. “We’re always telling the public our boat show is fun to attend,” says Joe Lewis. “But this year, over the dinner table, someone asked: How about us? Why can’t we have fun, too?”

What was a casual dinner conversation quickly turned into a full-blown mission. Joe Lewis is well known for his service to the industry’s Grow Boating Initiative, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, the Central Florida Marine Industries Association and more. So when he grabs hold of an idea, it happens.

“I think one of us jokingly said the word ‘Godfather’,” his daughter Julia recalls. “And that’s all it took. Dad was on a roll detailing how we’d make this year’s exhibit like no other in the show and our theme would be: “Make Us an Offer WE Can’t Refuse!”

When the Lewis family does something, it’s all out, like their annual Christmas display that includes 1.1 million lights.

This new boat-show exhibit called for a revised floor plan, special signage, appropriate costumes for everyone, and even creating theme-based promotional materials. Well, better than my describing the latter, see it for yourself right now:

Was it worth the effort? Joe’s wife Susan and son Joey agree they intended it to be different and fun--and they succeeded. “No question the traffic in our exhibit was the best we’ve ever seen,” said Joey.

“People came in talking about us. Both visitors and other exhibitors took notice. And show manager David Ray even said some other exhibitors are thinking about how they can do something similar, which might even add an extra dimension to the overall show,” Susan added.

As for “Godfather” Joe, he acknowledges that he anticipated more closings at the show than they experienced. “It really resulted in only one more sale than last year on the show floor,” Joe said. “‘Make Us An Offer’ wasn’t a strong enough incentive to compel more people to buy there. However, our increased followup with demos and ongoing discussions with prospects now coming to the store, and still talking about our theme, may deliver our ultimate payoff,” he adds.

Broker goes the extra mile

Beyond the Lewis family, I’ve been seeing other examples recently of the industry exceeding customer expectations.

The broker’s name is “Buzzy” Beaulieu. The firm is Bob Hodge Marine Group in St. Petersburg, Fla. Last month, a prospect wanted only one brand and a specific model, used but in good shape, offered at an acceptable price-point, and with reasonably low hours on twin outboard power.

There were hardly any on the market. One or two were overseas and a few were located in the U.S. A possible match was listed by Cape Fear Marine Center in Wilmington, N.C., but the customer was in St. Petersburg and travel to Wilmington was complicated by his schedule and an unwillingness to go that distance just for a look.

Most often, such a scenario would end there. Instead, Buzzy began chasing down the boat’s history, getting warranty and service records, and eventually even asked his brother, who is located closer to the boat, to go have a look. He reported the boat showed some lack of care, supported that with pictures, but overall it appeared to be in sound condition. Buzzy then presented all the research findings to the prospective buyer. Clearly, having continued to do so much research had already exceeded the prospect’s expectations. But what followed was the topper.

Buzzy offered to fly, on his own dime, to view the boat for himself to determine if it would meet the customer’s criteria, before recommending the customer go see it. Clearly, that exceeded all expectations, and proved to be the smart move on Buzzy’s part that ultimately made the sale.

Now, if you’re thinking this was a big half-million dollar deal, or a quarter-million or even a hundred thousand, you’ll be surprised to know it was under $60,000!

“I believe every possible sale, big or small, dictates that we should be willing to explore all possibilities before deciding it won’t happen,” explains Buzzy. “Sadly, I have experienced brokers who won’t drive even a couple of hours to show or inspect a boat for a possible buyer, and I wonder how many good opportunities they leave on the table. You can’t win if you’re not in the game!”

Above and beyond with customer service

In the times we’re living in, customers aren’t patient. They want help fast. But frequently when we email “customer support” on their website, the response can be aggravatingly slow. So, when a company repeatedly exceeds the customer’s expectations, it deserves a shout out.

Such is my experience with Pursuit Boats in Ft. Pierce, Fla. Twice in recent weeks I have needed parts and/or information and chose to email customer support. On each occasion, Terrence Redmond responded almost immediately. He provided all the information and help I requested. That certainly met my expectations. But he hit the “exceeded” level when he offered to send me some small replacement clips and I was even more blown away when they were on my door step the next day. A tip-o-the-cap for such a good example of outstanding customer service.

Kidde beats its own promise

We’d heard Kidde recalled certain fire extinguishers. We weren’t sure if we had any. So, my wife called Kidde customer service. After reviewing with her the information on our three units, Kidde’s representative determined two were no problem but the third had been recalled. It was promised a replacement would arrive in 2 to 3 weeks. That promise met our expectations. But Kidde exceeded the promise when FedEx delivered that replacement in less than a week. And, it highlights the principle to never promise more than you can deliver, but exceeding a promise hits the “sweet spot” in customer service.


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