The biggest challenge for the upcoming year and years to come centers around growing boating and the lifestyle. I think as an industry we need to allocate as much time and as many resources in keeping the boaters we do have versus focusing too heavily on bringing new individuals into boating. A wise man once told me, “We must first, treat each and every customer and employee like a gold nugget and that thinking will transition over to how we treat our prospects. Give a customer good service, provide a positive experience, and they will tell a friend. Give them bad service or put a bad taste in their mouth, they will undoubtedly tell ten friends.” Retention is one of the keys to growth. I think we have an excellent start with the “Grow Boating Campaign”, and dealer certification. I have worked with the automobile, RV, and motorcycle industries in the past on similar issues and witnessed the changes myself. I have never worked in an industry that is so closed-minded or opposed to change. No one can argue these other industries are providing the model and the road map that we are following. Our emphasis should be on making our existing customers happy instead of having to focus solely on getting new people into boating - which is ultimately only replacing the customers that are irritated and have left boating completely.
In the last few years, many things have begun to be addressed by an increased number of manufacturers, such as: the stem-to-stern warranty issue, uniform dealer agreements, industry certifications, product improvements, improved dealer relations and warranty compensation. These issues are all near and dear to my heart, and I believe they represent some of the core challenges that more of us need to work toward to grow boating and keep our current clientele. Unfortunately, a handful will not cut it. As more builders strive towards NMMA and ABYC standards, product quality increases. With improved warranty practices and dealer relations comes a drastic increase in CSI. I think more manufacturers and dealers are spending time and resources to better educate themselves on the systems and controls that are available to them which will increase efficiency, professionalism, and customer retention. Once we all make the sound and conscious decision to change and work to keep our current clients and customers happy, the results will shift into the growth of this industry.
Jamie Gaskins – President