Lines of Communication

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While the pandemic slammed an unprecedented number of businesses, boat sales soared, our inventories were diminished and dealership profits rose. It’s been a great ride, but to keep it going will require a concerted effort to build customer loyalty through communications and service.

As an industry, we tout our boats as the ideal recreation that connects parents, kids, friends and relatives. We’re not selling boats; we’re selling relationships. We’re all about human connection. So it must also be for dealers when it comes to customers. Resolving to stay connected, especially with so many new customers who showed up during the pandemic, can ensure loyalty and repeat sales.

We know keeping and reselling existing customers is far more cost-efficient than finding new ones, but that relationship must be intentionally cultivated. Here are some suggestions worth consideration.

With vaccinations underway and herd immunity on the horizon, now’s the time for action. The more time that passes from a customer’s purchase, the more difficult it will be to establish an ongoing relationship and, therefore, enjoy their loyalty for the next purchase.

An ongoing relationship is a long game. We’re talking about being proactive and periodically reaching out. It can be something as simple as just saying hello. The more personalization, the better — like remembering something they said they planned to do with their new boat and inquiring whether they’ve done it. Or you can call or email to make sure everything is set up right and that they’re comfortable with the operating features.

Of course, simply asking if there’s anything they need or would like you to follow up for them is always in order.

With so many new customers, checking in with them can make a world of difference in their overall experience and help them feel more connected to you. In the North, where boats have been in winter storage, now’s the time to connect and offer assistance to get those customers ready for another great summer on the water.

On the flip side, some customer relations experts contend salespeople do not follow up because they fear opening the door to complaints and negative feedback. But even if the customer isn’t entirely satisfied with the boat, showing that the dealership cares will help increase their satisfaction. Moreover, quickly solving any issue that arises will likely mean a problem solved and a customer for the long haul.

All that said, what an emphasis on customer connection does not mean is just sending sales promotion emails from time to time. Doing so will never build a relationship. Indeed, it can do the opposite and even send your emails to the trash. In other words, just sending out a manufacturer’s new-model video will likely be deleted before it’s seen.

To help in your communications program, there are customer relations management services and tools that can track everything from customer preferences and buying frequency to tracking the number of times they open your emails or visit your website. In fact, sufficient customer data stored in a CRM tool can actually help you create customized offers and personalized messages.

Understanding and communicating with customers doesn’t have to be an arduous process. It’s a fact that dealership teams have limited time. However, we live in a tech age that can smooth the way to establishing a regular cadence of personalized communication with all your valuable customers.

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