Many things have been, are, and will continue to be out of your control in today’s marketplace. If 2020 didn’t teach you that lesson, I don’t know what will.
But good dealers understand that while today’s slow supply chain, price increases and excessive demand are not their fault, they are their problems. Do you have a solution for these problems? Are your employees on the same page, and do they use the same answer? Is it a good answer? And will it help retain customers for a lifetime?
The good news is, with the right approach and proper customer care, you can deliver a world-class customer experience even when a boat is late to arrive or you can’t get a necessary part for a few more weeks. Here are five ideas for staying out front.
Keeping your customers up to date on the timing of their boat, no matter if it’s good or bad news, is critical in sales and service. Repair cycle times are taking a month to two and a half months, on average. And it’s no secret that boats aren’t always being built on the schedule that was promised. The retail winners in this scenario are the ones who communicate with their customers every chance they get.
Refine Your Processes
When market conditions lurch and the flow of business changes, as it has in the boating market, it’s time to refine the business, beginning with the processes we use to replicate success. There is no better time to do that than now.
Yes, dealers are as busy as ever, completing tasks they’ve never had to take on. But before long, they’ll be back running their business the way they always have. Is business as usual going to cut it? You need to decide.
Stop long enough to analyze what wasn’t working for your business before the pandemic hit. And to determine what the pandemic exposed as weaknesses in your business — when businesses were shut down, and when business was booming but inventory was hard to come by. Adjust your business and sharpen your processes.
Align Your Team
While processes will be critical to aligning your team, it’s equally important to load their lips with the right message for your customers.
Boating is a relationship business from the first contact through the last service appointment. Keep your customers by creating a consistent message — about the supply chain, the availability of boats, the price increases and the service delays. Informed customers are happy customers, no matter whether the news is good or bad.
By the way, you may be wondering how you’re going to pay your sales team if they have no boats to sell. How about incentivizing them to use their down time to make customer service calls? When inventory levels begin to climb, you’re going to need the relationships that underscore the value of a solid book of potential repeat customers.
Customers are out there wondering what’s going on with your empty parking lot. Are you really sold out of inventory, or are you going out of business? You know the situation; make sure your customers do as well.
If you’re looking for ideas, you can view a great video by Len’s Cove Marina owner Sean Horsfall as the perfect example of how to make your customers aware of what’s going on in the boat retail market: youtube.com/watch?v=pz44HYR3Lrk. He even shares a few boat-buying tips I think you’ll agree with.
Prepare for Upset Customers
By now, we’ve all dealt with the customer who’s upset about the increased prices on the boat he ordered. (Or you’re the upset customer, eating the additional cost yourself.) And we all have customers who wanted their boats serviced and back in time for a summer holiday but were left disappointed.
Fend off the shock that comes with higher prices by using the MRAA’s price disclaimer form: mraa.com/page/sales_resources.
And if you want real strategy on how to deal with upset customers, check out MRAA’s July 2021 Training ‘N’ Tactics course by John Spence: mraa.com/page/tnt. The TNT course package (one course per month) is free to MRAA silver and gold members, and the July episode shares invaluable secrets on how to ensure your team can handle the emotions of a disgruntled boat buyer.
Today’s finicky customers and the crazy market conditions demand a refined approach. Whether it’s your people, your processes or just your preparation, make sure you’ve got what it takes to keep customers happy on the water, and coming back for their next new boat.
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.