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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.

 

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Top tags: marine industry  dealer development  continuous improvement  MRAA member  member spotlight  business advice  growth  fun facts  dealer focused  customer experience  Annual conference  dealer to dealer  best practices  discussions  certification  mraa history  resources  Continuous Certification  experience  MICD  Education  relationships  training  Annual meetings  industry insight  MRAA  employee satisfaction  employees  Experiences  intent 

Hi, I Have Tattoos

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hello, my name is Nikki and I have tattoos. As an elder millennial, it was almost a rite of passage to get my first tattoo in 2002 at 18 years old and I have clear memories from each experience that has left permanent ink on my skin.

In my most recent tattoo experience, I was visiting friends in California and decided to get tattoos at the same shop for a Flash Friday event. My friend recommended a shop she knew and trusted that has almost perfect reviews and a beautiful space. I was in!

We arrived, picked out our designs and my friend saw the artist she typically sees. Since I wanted to try to get tattooed at the same time, I went with the next available artist. This was my mistake, big mistake. The artist I chose to work with brought with him a heavy emotional life story, that he chose to share very intimate details with us about. I was uncomfortable to say the least, and it was more from his attempts at conversation than it was about the needles in my skin.

Today, I have a beautiful tattoo that reminds me of this man’s emotional life story rather than the wonderful memory I had hoped to create with my friend. I feel, in this case, my customer experience was tainted by one bad employee that didn’t understand his negativity was impacting my experience. Think about it – if your employee is having a bad day and working with a customer, what kind of story are they telling?

Tags:  customer experience  emotional  employees  experience  millennial  story 

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Take the time to understand your customers

Posted By Liz Keener, Thursday, August 16, 2018

A couple months ago I bought my first brand-new motorcycle. In the process, I visited five different dealerships and had five vastly different experiences. The reason I bought from the fifth? The salesperson got me.

My first interaction with Bryce was through a quote request form on the dealership’s website. He responded quickly, giving me an out-the-door price down to the penny, and he asked where I’d be coming from to check out the bike he had on the floor. I told him I’d be coming from my office over lunch, and he was enthusiastic with a reply of “That would be awesome! I'll see ya then.”

I walked in and immediately saw the bike I had inquired about, and soon I heard, “Liz?” Not only was Bryce nearby, ready to help any customer, but he was ready to help me, remembering my name and which bike I was coming in to look at.

He didn’t have all the answers – like when I asked the difference between the 2017 model and a pre-owned 2015 I was considering at another dealership – but he had the right answers, and he understood what I was looking for and what I needed as a newer rider. He assisted me in ordering my lowering kit; he helped me navigate financing. He was patient with me when I changed my mind after leaving the dealership and decided to go with the ABS model versus the non-ABS that we had spent most of our time talking about. He wasn’t judgmental that I was a new rider, a female, or a millennial.

Bryce took the time to learn about what I wanted and why, and he didn’t sit around rattling off features and benefits that were unimportant to me.

When we as customers are looking to make a significant purchase – a motorcycle, a boat, a house, anything that requires a decent investment – we want to trust that the person who is selling the product has our best interests in mind.

Are you making those connections with your customers? Do you “get” them? That’s the type of experience they’re looking for when they walk in your door.

Tags:  connections  customer experience  customer service  dealerships  experience  motorcycle dealerships 

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Dealer to Dealer: August

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, August 16, 2018

What is the most impactful lesson you learned about consumers during this selling season?


"That everything I thought before about consumers is still true…when people feel like they have money and economy is good, whether they really can afford it or cannot, they wish to spend money and spend it less frugally." - Ray Fernandez, Bridge Marina

"Today's customers sure know where to find us when it comes to - close to - DEMANDING immediate gratification when it comes to service but, when asked about their recent parts/accessory purchases, have all kinds of reasons/excuses why we seem to have been forgotten. We do our best to compete with the Amazons of the world but today's mobile purchase habits are getting stronger by the minute." - Ken Grabowski, Custom Marine, Inc.

"We have learned the following about consumers during this selling season:
  • Many don’t want to own they want to rent boats
  • People do have money to spend
  • Many consumers we are finding are looking for more family time
  • We are finding our old customers are getting old, retiring and getting out of boating
  • Finding a lot of consumers are very rate/payment conscious
  • Consumers are not buying at the shows, they are very educated on the product before they even get to the showroom" - Carlton Philips, Prince William Marine Sales


Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at MRAA.com. Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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MRAA History: Don Galey

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, August 9, 2018

One of the original founders of the MRAA and of its Annual Conference, Don Galey of Galey's Marine Supply, has collected awards like these at MRAA’s Annual Conference as far back as the 1970s and as recently as last year. Straight-ahead, Don.

Tags:  Annual conference  award celebration  dealer focused  mraa history  throwbackthursday 

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Member Spotlight: Joe Lewis

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, August 9, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Q: You have been in the boating world for some time, what is the most interesting decision you’ve made while in the boating business.

Lewis: To stay in the business! (Kidding). The most interesting was to get into the business as a full service marina/dealership instead of a land-based dealership. It cost more up front, but it’s paid dividends over the years.

Q: Your family works along side you in the dealership. Do you have certain family values you carry over into your business?


Lewis: At the risk of sounding a bit cliché’, yes.  We try to treat all our customers like family, but not like your brother or sister!

We’re are also a marina so we see our customers a lot more than the average dealership. Our goal is to make all those customer experiences as easy, as fun and enjoyable as possible.  Not sure you’d call them family values, but whenever issues arise that get in the way, we treat people the way we’d expect to be helped if we found ourselves under the same circumstances.

That’s one of the dividends I was talking about in my first answer. We’re able to build relationships because we see them much more than the sales or service experience once or twice a year.  We’re able to connect with our customers, boating and local communities more often.  Each time we deliver a positive experience our stock goes up and we achieve a level of trust that’s hard for the competition to beat.

Q: As the MRAA Board of Director’s Chairman, what do you see for the future of the association?


Lewis: A very bright and exciting time ahead.  Over the last decade MRAA has become a trusted and valuable resource for marine retailers interested in improving their businesses.  Since forever sales and product information has been readily available from manufacturers.  But information about how to structure and operate a successful dealership business has been hard to come by. MRAA has stepped in and is providing these resources in a “BIG” way.

Look for us to continue to expand these offerings as we begin to work on big picture issues like work force development.  Plus we’ll be making an announcement soon about something we believe will have an enormous impact on the success of our dealers and our industry.

Q: In addition to being the MRAA Chairman, you are also the Chair of Discover Boating. What is one thing you hope to see the industry get behind in regards to attracting more people to boating?


Lewis: I’d love to see dealerships with access to the water rent boats.  The First Time Boat Buyer research DB did two years ago revealed an incredible amount of information about who our FTBB’s are and what motivates them to buy a boat. We learned about the five “D’s”(Develop, Desire, Dream, Decide & Do), stages they experienced in their journey to boat ownership. The most important, that moment when Desire to own occurred, was during a boating experience.  The more we can do to get people on the water for the “AH HA” moment to occur the better.  Boat rentals is just one way that we’ve seen some success at our dealership.

Q: Let’s finish this interview on a lighter note! What are 5 things that people may not know about you?

Lewis:
  1. Just celebrated my 26th anniversary with my wife Susan.
  2. We’re expecting to meet our first grandchild any day; Connor will be Julia’s first baby.
  3. I’m a model railroader and collect HO model trains.
  4. Enjoy scuba diving with my son Jay, wreck & cave diving especially.
  5. I’ll be reaching retirement age in two years.  People tell me I look much older!

Tags:  business advice  fun facts  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member 

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Their Loss, Our Gain

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, August 8, 2018
My 13-year-old son, Nathan, and I spent an hour yesterday in a car dealership, signing the papers on a new vehicle. Nathan is passionate (obsessed is probably a better word for it) about anything that has a steering wheel, from the boat and the lawn tractor to his go-cart and the family cars.

While my lease didn’t expire until October, Nathan began researching new vehicles last Christmas break, and he hasn’t let up. If we had it my way, we would have waited to turn in our lease until the day it was due – and probably would have saved a few thousand dollars. But that would have meant enduring another three months of debate with a 13-year-old over the benefits of this feature vs. feature and this model vs. that one.

So, Nathan accompanied me to the dealership, partly out of his passion to be in a business full of cars, and partly so I would choose a vehicle that met his standards. As I was signing the papers, I shared with the salesman that Nathan has considered a career in car sales. He has a natural way with people. He loves to be behind the wheel. And all his time researching cars online has made him an encyclopedia of specifications and options.

I’m thinking that this guy has the opportunity to give my son the encouragement to chase his dream, to get paid to pursue his passion. He has the power to not only influence him to follow in his footsteps, but also to change my kid’s life.

Or not. The salesman – a 60-something who has been selling cars since he was 19 – rolls his eyes and says: “Go to college, kid!”

Opportunity lost. Experience ruined.

 As dealers, it’s our job to focus on the customer experience. A big part of their experience is determined by whether they’re interacting with people who love what they do for a living. Your employees’ passion can not only attract people to want to buy from you and to engage at a higher level in boating (or driving), but it also can inspire people to want to work alongside you. Or not.

When it comes to careers, boating actually has a BIG advantage over other industries. Whether you’re selling or servicing boats, you get the chance to bring people together on the water with their friends, their family and the natural world to have fun and to escape from the stress of life on land.

If your dealership hires employees who believe in the incredible value of what you provide to your customers and train them to apply that enthusiasm to delivering a great customer experience, we can not only attract and retain more customers, but also spark more interest in working in our businesses and our industry. If other industries fail to do the same, their loss, our gain.

Tags:  customer experience  dealer development  dealer focused  employee satisfaction  experience  Experiences 

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MRAA History: Shirtsleeve Sessions

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, August 2, 2018
MRAA’s Shirtsleeve Sessions, which launched in 1977, represented the earliest days of MRAA’s Annual Conference. Leading dealers discussed and provided insights and solutions on the leading challenges and opportunities facing the marine business.

#MRAAhistory #dealerfocused #throwbackthurday

Tags:  Annual conference  dealer focused  industry insight  marine industry  mraa history  shirtsleeve sessions  solutions  throwbackthursday 

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MRAA History: Panel Dicussions

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, July 26, 2018
Panel discussion have been a hallmark of MRAA’s Annual Conference throughout the years. This two-tiered panel tackled the problems of the day through these dealer experts.

Tags:  Annual conference  Annual meetings  dealer development  dealer focused  experience  mraa history  networking 

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Track customer experiences at your dealership

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It’s been 19 years since Joseph Pine and James Gilmore authored their groundbreaking book, “The Experience Economy,” which boldly predicted that “future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations — goods and services are no longer enough.”

Whether Pine and Gilmore were premature in their prediction or it’s simply that their insight has multiplied over the last two decades, it’s become extraordinarily clear that their speculation has never been more accurate than it is today.

Experiences matter more now than ever before, and everywhere we turn, experts and businesses alike are preaching on the power of experiences. And please note: Customer experience-focused approaches for businesses are far different than the rather bland thinking that surrounds customer service and customer satisfaction.

As author, consultant and speaker Theresa Syer noted in her Dealership Certification Course, “Improve Loyalty With A Customer Experience Mindset,” customer service is defined as the most basic of interactions between a customer and a company. Its core focus is a single transaction that takes place at a specific time. “The customer asks for something. The employee provides it. Transaction complete,” Syer notes.

The customer experience, on the other hand, is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with your business. It includes the customer’s overall perception after every moment of contact throughout their relationship with your business. It’s the net result of your website, your phone greeting, your in-person meet and greet, your sales process, all the way through to interactions with the delivery person, service team and the yard staff. Customer service is a part of the experience, but it doesn’t define it, Syer explains.

In this scenario, you might provide outstanding customer service, but one other touchpoint — as small as it may be — could destroy the customer experience. Do you know for sure, how well your employees are focused on providing an outstanding customer experience?


Here’s a tool for you, courtesy of the Continuous Certification Course Theresa created for MRAA and its Certified Dealers. It’s just an introductory experience log that introduces participants to this course, which is rich with many other tools and resources to help you provide your customers with a much more rewarding experience. Print this form and use it to log the experiences you’re having every day when interacting with other businesses. And then use again to think through how your customers are interacting with your business. I recommend you have some of your customers log their experience with you so you can learn from it.

As Pine and Gilmore predicted back in the late 90s, customer experiences are the currency we deal with today. They matter more than we ever could have expected. Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear stories in this blog about some incredible experiences our staff members have had, and you’ll hear stories about some horrible experiences we have had.

Let’s start working today to ensure your customers are having only incredible experiences.

Tags:  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  customer experience  customer service  Experiences  relationships  resources  Theresa Syer  tools 

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Dealer to Dealer: July

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge leaders are facing today?


There are "co-biggest” problems. 1) PreK-12 education - current model is not developing an employable product. There is excessive remedial work required whether by the post-secondary degree programs or employers. 2) Workers Comp /Health insurance - the cost continues to rise at an unsustainable rate. The delivery models do not seem to be user friendly or efficient. - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works

Finding qualified mechanics. - Dennis Benish, Winona Marina

Finding and keeping good service personal. - Robert Paton, Patona Bay Boat Service

The biggest challenge we have in this industry in my opinion is attracting motivated staff members. I don't want to get all political or anything although I think we need to put more effort into vetting people migrating to this country who want to work. As much as I hate to admit it I believe our growth in numbers are going to come from people who are more motivated then the average young American citizen. We need to focus on investing in people who look at being a mechanic or tradesman as an opportunity and not an entry level or stepping stone job. - Rob Brown, Clark Marine

Buyouts and staffing of employees are some of the biggest challenges for leaders today. - Ken Sorley. Marineland Boating Center


Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at MRAA.com. Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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