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Hands-on customer training: good or bad?

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Legend Marine Group in Carrollton, Texas, recently announced it will offer hands-on training to customers who buy certain boat models. The dealership sells Formula, Fountain, Monterey and Donzi and, obviously, the program will be a buying incentive for their performance boat buyers. 

Legend has teamed up with Tres Martin’s Performance Boat School in Ocala, Fla., to provide the customer training. Martin’s offers skill-based courses ranging from Basic Boat Indoctrination to an Ultimate High Performance Class in Ocala.

According to Brad Schoenwald at Legend, “New boat owners will learn boat-type specific skills. We think it’s especially important to operators of high performance boats. They also receive substantial discounts on their insurance premiums,” he adds.

Legend’s program got me thinking.

Should all dealers be offering some form of skill-based training to new boat buyers? When we say new boat buyers, are we thinking first time boaters or current boaters moving up? What about a used boat buyer?

Right or wrong, the Coast Guard always seems quick to point out a boater in an accident who doesn’t have any formal boating education. Dealers are frequently accused of just selling the boats and sending the customers off without any training. But that criticism may be only partly true. I think most dealers take time to review with all customers the basic systems operation during the delivery process. However, hands-on skill-based training is another matter.

Is it a good idea? I think so, especially for a new boater. Sure, it may take some time out with the customer to develop his boat handling skills. But I suspect, in the end, that the customer will be a more confident boater, use the boat more because he is confident, become a safer boater and be a prime customer for repeat purchases from you.

If your dealership is large enough, perhaps you have a staff member who is an excellent boat handler, has a teacher’s affable personality and an interest in helping new boaters. He or she can be “the instructor.” Or, perhaps you can work out an arrangement with a local power squadron or Coast Guard auxiliary member who’d like to give hands-on training. How about a customer that’s retired and might jump at the chance to do it in return for some small consideration. Finding “the instructor” shouldn’t be hard.

In the end, I don’t see how we can lose if we take time to help our customers be better users of our products simply by improving their skills. 

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