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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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Follow-up is Critical to Building Loyalty

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

Earning one sale from a customer is great, but building upon that relationship is key to earning service business and the subsequent sales. That’s why follow-up is so important.

Last month I explained why I bought the motorcycle I bought and how the salesperson understood me and my wants. However, since that purchase, my experience with that dealership has gone cold.

It seems that after I bought my bike, that dealership stopped caring. They earned my money and moved on to the next person. Does that make me feel welcome? No. Does that build my loyalty? Definitely not.

As great as the sales experience was, everything from the delivery on has been disappointing. At delivery, I was sent back to the service department to pick up my bike. There was little excitement, little instruction, and my bike was dusty. I was so thrown from the experience that I forgot to ask important questions, like where the manual is, so I can get to know my bike. I had to go back to get that instruction a few minutes later.

Since picking up the bike almost two months ago, I haven’t received one phone call or email asking me about how I’m enjoying my bike or if I need any further assistance.

In fact, just this week the dealership missed a key follow-up opportunity. My license plate finally arrived from the DMV, and the call to tell me about that was purely informational – again no questions about my motorcycling experience or if I need anything else to enjoy riding more. Later in the day, I stopped into the dealership, and my plate was simply handed to me with no other interaction.

Three people were on the floor of the dealership – one customer was being helped by two employees at the parts counter. I had to stop a third to be helped, and again no one asked me about my bike or if I was interested in any parts or accessories now that I’ve spent some time on it. In fact, I could use a tank bag and am interested in other accessories as well. But no one asked.

As any customer experience education has taught us, loyalty is built on the entire experience at your dealership, not one sale. Be mindful that you’re not leaving customers hanging after they make a purchase from you.

Tags:  customer experience  expectations  Experiences  follow-up  loyalty  motorcycle dealerships  relationships  Sales 

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Communication Is Key, Right?

Posted By Allison Gruhn, Monday, September 24, 2018

How many times have we heard the cliché that “communication is key”? Or, that it’s better to over-communicate to avoid misunderstandings?

In customer relationships, it is not enough to merely communicate.  Here’s a recent experience of mine that I believe proves that how often you are communicating with your customers and what you are actually saying, is even more important. Is your message sincere? Or is it just lip service?   

Last summer, a storm rolled through Minneapolis and caused damage to our siding and roof. After many “storm chasers” knocked on our door to offer services, my husband and I decided to go with a contractor who was recommended from a friend, and who lived in our area. We had an initial meeting to discuss the work that was needed, and decided to add-on some additional home improvement items. Our contract was signed and we were excited to have the work begin.

And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Just waiting for the work to begin was agonizing. We signed our contract in August, with the promise that the work would be completed in time for Thanksgiving. But we waited. Waited for materials to be delivered, for a dumpster to be delivered, for any communication of a timeline. Anything.

We finally reached out to our contractor, who instead of taking a proactive approach and communicating with us a plan about the work schedule, left us hanging with multiple excuses of “I haven’t heard from the siders yet” or “I’m waiting for the shingles to be delivered” or “the materials were delayed from the factory” or “I ordered the wrong garage door,” or … or … or. At one point, we actually received a message that said: “We haven’t forgotten about you. Sorry about my crummy communication skills. I’ll let you know as soon as I know a better timeline.”

After every excuse, we waited days to weeks with no communication or updates, which caused us to become upset and frustrated. It seemed as if we were always the ones to be reaching out to him, instead of him contacting us first. But more importantly, when he did finally respond to us, he’d make promises he wouldn’t deliver on. So we lost faith in his words.

So the question here is, how do you stay in touch with your customers? When their boat is in for service, do you wait hours, days, a week or even a month before providing an update? When that part finally shows up, do you let the customer know, or do you just let the technician know? When your customer’s new boat is on order, are you diligent about communicating updates from the factory with them?

It is not enough to just communicate. That is the basic expectation. What you say and how you say it is just the first step. If you wait until the customer asks, you’re not meeting expectations. You need to be proactive with your communication. Think through what it’s like to be the customer and how you can exceed expectations and deliver an incredible buying and ownership experience. And never forget that your follow-through -- what you do after you make the promises – is what truly defines the quality of the customer experience.

Tags:  communication  continuous improvement  customer experience  expectations  experience  Experiences  misunderstandings  relationships 

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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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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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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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Fact or Fiction? Customers Will Give You Their Contact Info

Posted By Katie Eichelberger, Wednesday, July 11, 2018
According to research conducted by Discover Boating in its “First Time Boat Buyer Research,” the answer is, “FACT,” for 66% of buyers. But only after they have purchased from you. Which makes it obvious, that trust is an issue.

Members of the MRAA team attended a presentation by David Horsager, and we can tell you that 1. There’s a reason he calls himself a “trust expert,” and; 2. It is the exact reason we’ve chosen him to be our 2018 MDCE Opening Keynote. He taught us that in order to successfully build trust amongst consumers, it first starts with your employees and their relationship building skills with those customers.

Relationships are built on asking the right questions, showing your genuine desire to find them exactly what they want. Consumers are looking for a unique and personalized experience.

I know, I know, you have heard this before. But are you actually taking the time to ask the right questions to build that relationship and in term, their loyalty?

Once a positive relationship is built, you are one step closer to having their loyalty. But not until then. After you have their loyalty through relationship building, they’ll refer to you as the expert and share that positive experience with everyone they know. And therefore, your business has greater success.

Tags:  customer experience  dealer development  Discover Boating  experience  first-time boat buyer  keynote  loyality  mdce  trust 

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#trainingdaywithMRAA Recap: What I Can't Stop Thinking About

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It has almost been a week since last Friday’s #trainingdaywithMRAA, and I can’t stop thinking about what Theresa Syer said in her session, “Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage.”

“According to the IPSIS Mori Study, emotionally engaged customers are 3-times more likely to recommend you to others.”

Whoa. We all know that the moment a potential buyer can picture their children (or dog, in my case) sitting in that new boat, the sale is closed. People are emotional creatures. So how can we use this information to keep customers returning to your dealership and bringing their friends?

Theresa says we need to shift our focus from the single task that needs to be completed (ie. selling a boat) to a future focus that will keep customers coming back for more. This happens when the customer is greeted upon arrival, is escorted to the place they need to be, is offered professional advice without cost, is given an above and beyond customer experience that they can’t stop thinking about.   

We shouldn’t strive to get customers in and out of the door as soon as possible; but instead create a unique experience for them to be wowed by. They are going to remember their experience when they need service on their new boat because you made things different for them.


Join the #trainingtrio on Twitter every Friday morning for their weekly #trainingdaywithMRAA session.

Tags:  #trainingdaywithMRAA  #trainingtrio  buyers  customer  customer experience  customer service  emotional  focus  training 

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Experiences > Products

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Monday, April 16, 2018

Experiences are greater than material products.

I’ve been hearing this mantra from many directions lately. For example, Instagram is using influencers and ads to capture the experience you will get from engaging with the product – to capture the feelings and emotions tied to using their product. Going to a conference has changed; it used to be the land of samples, dry education, and services or product information. Today’s conferences have focus on the guest experience; food and drinks, location, engaging education and entertainment, and community building.

The membership team at MRAA went to a seminar in early April, the Secrets to Engagement, to learn about how we can continually improve how we serve our members. The emphasis on impressions and experiences was impactful, and it helped us take a look at how we welcome new members into the association.

We know marine retailers join for our tools, resources and education – what can we offer as the staff to turn our products into experiences? It seems so simple as I put these words down: It’s about the human interaction; it’s about making people feel important and heard; it’s about responding to a need with compassion and support. MRAA members are our customers, and we need to maintain focus on how to continually improve how we deliver excellence with interactions that result in meaningful experiences.

To further develop this thinking, the MRAA staff is participating in the elite education put together by the Continuous Certification team for Certified Dealers in quarter two – "Improve Customer Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset," by Theresa Syer. Theresa points to a similar mantra around experiences; detailing the emotional experience that retailers must deliver to move from delivering in customer service to deliver an engaging customer experience. When customers visit a marine retailer, the staff needs to focus on the experiential mindset that combines the sum of all moments while at the dealership. That means the entire staff ensures the guest feels cared for and addresses their needs in an intuitive and human way. It seems obvious, I know, but it’s challenging in practice. Theresa underscores the importance of success in this area, however, when she says, “The Human Factor is the behavior that directly influences your customer based on how you made them feel.”

The time for change on how we deliver on experiences over selling products is now. We only have one moment to make a lasting impression that could create a loyal, raving fan of a customer. And the boating industry is noticing this trend. We need to shift from selling boats (the product) to remaining focused on delivering boaters a world-class lifestyle (the experience). What can we do to increase the positive experiences for customers, members, and guests, to impact future spending and commitment to each of our unique brands? In some cases, it will be as simple as a genuine smile!


Are you interested in learning more about enhancing the customer experience at your dealership? The Marine Industry Certified Dealership program has the template for developing the resources and processes to create loyal fans as customers.

Tags:  certification  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  customer experience  customer service  Experiences  moments 

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The Tale of Two Milkshakes

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Hi, I’m Bob and I’m a chocolate milkshake-aholic!

Because of this addiction, I frequent places that serve such divine pleasure. One place that got my attention this week promotes a Happier Hour and offers milkshakes at half price. They are hand-dipped, old-fashioned shakes topped with whipped cream and a cherry, all for $1.61 including tax! What’s not to like? I’ll tell ya: The aggravation of getting one!

The only thing consistent at this shake establishment is a poor customer experience that starts with, “Is anyone helping you?” This after a several-minute wait with no other customers in the place, delivered by a checked-out employee. Yes, I do go into the restaurant with décor that gets me in the mood for this classic, smooth beverage. The reason I go into the restaurant is to confirm that they are open and there are people working. You can’t tell from the silence coming through the speaker in the drive-thru! Every time I manage to achieve one of these shakes, I’m thinking it will be my last because a place like this isn’t going to stay open long.

Serving vs. selling
Compare this experience with a place down the street that doesn’t have Shake in their name, a chicken sandwich place. How can a place that sells chicken compare with a place that serves Steak and Shakes?  The difference is that the chicken place SERVES their customers and the steak place SELLS their customers. Truth is, the shakes at Chick-fil-A are machine made and the flavor is spun in, but they don’t forget the whipped cream and cherry! It’s the pleasure of being served by such enthused employees that makes the shake taste better.

I’ve been a raving fan of Chick-fil-A for years, and they find ways to further delight me on every visit. I have always parked my car and gone into the restaurant because the line that wraps around the building for the drive-thru deters me. I went out today to do some errands and brought along our new puppy, Lilly. I had the urge to fulfill my addiction and pulled into Chick-fil-A knowing I couldn’t walk in for my shake because I couldn’t bring Lilly inside. Leaving a dog in a car in the Florida heat is not an option. There it was, the line wrapped around the building, and I had to wait for vehicles to leave the window so I could get in line!

As I was thinking, “Is this worth it?” a young lady walked up to my window and asked my name. “Do you know what you would like?” I gave her my order, and she asked if I was paying cash or card. Meanwhile, the line ahead of me is already rounding the first corner of the building, so she asked me to move forward and walked along with me. She told me that she could take my card, swiped it across her belt, and returned my card. Again, the traffic ahead had already turned the next corner, and I followed, encountering another young lady who was holding my receipt and said, “Here you go, Bob!”

I still hadn’t come to a full stop, and I saw a young man directing the car ahead of me forward to clear the window for me with their bag of food in hand. I finally could make a full stop and put my credit card away while another lady at the window asked, “How’s it going today, Bob?” as she bagged my sandwich and handed me my chocolate fix!

Wow! It took less time to get served from a line that wrapped around a building than it took for the other restaurant to say, “Is anyone helping you?” I don’t think I need to see the books for each of these businesses to determine which is more profitable or review employee satisfaction surveys to know which has happier, more engaged employees.

How they do what they do
How does Chick-fil-A do it? I’m certain it didn’t happen overnight. I’ve eaten Chick-fil-A sandwiches for too long, well before they started serving my version of crack. They were never this good. They went from good to great! They haven’t shared their secrets with me, and I’m not sure they will. But I’m certain it starts with a proper culture and training. Then lots of observing and talking with customers to find the less-than-desirable parts of the experience and make them a pleasure.

Can we do the same in the service department at a boat dealership? I think we can by creating a great place to work, always looking for ways to exceed the customer’s expectation that will naturally drive profits, thus having a viable company that will keep customers for life. Adopting the processes required to become a Marine Industry Certified Dealership is a good start to creating the right culture and making sure your dealership’s operations are in line with customer expectations. However, the process to stay Certified is the special sauce that keeps you looking for ways to further delight your customers on every visit.

I hope you enjoy your food and milkshake on your next visit to Chick-fil-A, and more importantly, enjoy how they serve their customers!

Tags:  certification  culture  customer experience  employee satisfaction  engaged  milkshakes  profitable 

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