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Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Monday, July 6, 2020


In Minnesota, a salesman admits that boat deliveries and walkthroughs are being compromised by the overwhelming number of customers who need to be cared for. This, despite the fact that he’s selling boats to customers who’ve never even been in a boat, let alone have never owned a boat.

In Florida, a dealership principal tosses and turns through sleepless nights because he knows his customers aren’t receiving the care and attention they deserve. In Ohio, it’s plain and simple, a dealer’s “CSI scores are going to take a hit,” because of the frantic pace of boat sales and service.

Across North America, boat dealerships are facing a culmination of pressure points that make it nearly impossible to keep up. Leads have increased exponentially, all the new customers we’ve dreamt about are swarming dealerships, and boat sales are surpassing record numbers. What started as a sales season rife with panic and concern on a level not seen since The Great Recession, has quickly transformed into a prolific boat “buying frenzy” that has boat dealers overwhelmed, staff on the verge of burnout and inventory significantly depleted.

On the manufacturing side, production lines have restarted and boats are being shipped, but executives admit that they’re rushing to fill orders. They acknowledge that the compounding effects of restarting production lines, hiccups in the supply chain and the pressure to deliver boats have caused a rise in quality issues. Meanwhile, the long-running quip that dealership service departments serve as the last 10 feet of the production line has recently been updated to the last 75 feet.

This isn’t a blame game or even a pity party. It’s an acknowledgement that while the boat business experiences significant demand, there’s both an opportunity and a risk we should be aware of.

First-time boat buyers have been leaving boating at a clip of about 40 percent in their first five years of boat ownership — during normal times, according to a study released last year. Today’s dealers risk that this sudden pressure on their businesses will cause them to fail to deliver the world-class customer experience people expect when parting ways with their discretionary income. And they risk more customers than normal will become one-and-done boat owners.

The opportunity, then, is that we can deliver for them and capture these first-time boat buyers for life. With their eyes opened to the escape boating can provide, it’s our chance to show them how being on the water can change their lives for good. That effort begins with the dealer, and a little bit of the right effort will ensure the ownership experience is worth recommending and returning for.

The MRAA is here to help ensure that you capitalize on the opportunity in front of you and that you overcome all risks to the long-term profitability of your business.

Introducing “Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating,” a step-by-step guide to helping you ensure the boat ownership experience exceeds expectations, and creating an environment where your customers will develop two-foot-itis in a year or so and will be in to trade up on their boat.

This multi-part guide has been conceptualized by MRAA’s Dealership Certification Program Manager Liz Keener and Lead Consultant Bob McCann and captures and shares some of the leading insights our team has garnered over the years. They’ve tapped expert advice, dealer best practices, and industry trends to help you manage the customer experience. The first phase of this guide will be released as blogs right here on

In this series, you’ll gain critical insights on topics like post-sale follow-up, processes for taking care of first-time boat buyers, service shop efficiencies, and digital engagement. You’ll also gain access to resources like call scripts, process maps and key job descriptions. It’s a robust, step-by-step guide for not only taking care of your customers but also for helping you capture future business.

The important part of this is the three-part commitment you need to make for your business and your customers:

  1. Acknowledge that the customer experience and the future prosperity of your business are at risk;
  2. Tap into the resources you will learn about and MRAA is providing for you; and
  3. Put them to use in your dealership starting today.

Your new customers might already be on the water, but it’s not too late to ensure they have a world-class boating experience. You get to decide if that happens, and the time to act is now.

Tags:  customer experience 

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