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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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Marine Retailing in a Learning Economy

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Educate. [ej-oo-keyt] verb. to provide with information in order to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction for a particular calling or practice in a particular area for a particular purpose.


When we were kids, we thought we had it figured out. First, you go to school to get educated. Then, you graduate and put what you learned to work in the real world – in our case, the boat dealership.

But we were wrong. The first thing you learn when you start a new job is how much you DON’T know. Yeah, with experience, you learn how to be more successful at your job. But just when you start getting good, you either get promoted into a new job where it all starts over again or you begin to realize that what it means to be good at most of the jobs we do is changing.

That’s why, as leaders in the boat business, education for ourselves and our team needs to be top of mind. Education doesn’t mean the same thing to us now as it did in school. It’s not about learning for the sake of learning. It’s quite simply our path to sustaining, improving and growing our dealerships. And if anything, it has become MORE important since our school days, not less.

The idea that what we think we know about our work is constantly changing is the focus of a book that just came out, called “Never Stop Learning.” In it, author Brad Staats makes the argument that we no longer live in a “knowledge economy” – where growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available.

We actually live in a “learning economy,” where what drives success in our businesses is constantly changing. Knowledge and information are not fixed anymore. What you learned a year ago or even a month ago may not apply today. Education is no longer an event – it’s a continuous process.

Think about your dealership, for example. There is new information being generated every day – about your prospects, your customers, your employees, your revenue, your profitability, your assets, your efficiency, your marketing and sales. What in the dealership DOESN’T generate data these days? Your growth is dependent on your ability to always be learning about what the latest information – from inside and outside your dealership – means for your success. And adapting to what’s changing.


To help you create the culture of continuous improvement that a learning economy requires, the Marine Retailers Association prepared a Guide to Dealership Improvement, available to members in the Resource Center at MRAA.com.

In addition, we’re constantly producing new educational courses, videos, digital publications, blogs, research reports and tools to support you and your team. Want to learn more? Check out our website at MRAA.com or give our team a call at 763-315-8043.

Tags:  boat dealership  continuous improvement  continuous process  culture  dealer development  develop  educate  Guide to Dealership Improvement  resources 

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Resources for Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, September 12, 2018

From natural occurrences (much like the Hurricanes headed towards shore) to the "freak" events that take you off guard, we never know when disaster is going to hit and put your business in danger. The MRAA team felt the time was right to offer a few resources that can help you prepare or recover after disaster strikes.

Seven Tips to Help Your Small Business Recover From Hurricane Damage

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Small Business Recovery Expanded Guide

Small Business Association: Prepare for Emergencies

Sea Grant Crisis Management Guide

Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Preparedness & Recovery Event


If you are looking for resources specific to your area, please email mickaela@mraa.com and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

Tags:  crisis  disaster  guides  hurricanes  recovery  resources  tips  weather 

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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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A common misunderstanding

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 28, 2017
In the year and half that has passed since taking on the roll as Lead Certification Consultant, I’ve witnessed a common misunderstanding among many dealers concerning the literal translation of the requirements for Certification.

It was bestowed upon me by the MRAA staff and the dealers who sit on our Board of Directors that each requirement has an intent. In order to fulfill the Certification requirement, a dealer must meet the intent of the requirement or standard, not the literal translation. As a consultant, I recommend dealers fulfill these requirements by the most simple and effective method allowed – ideally, using the tools a dealer already has in place, though I also make the dealer aware of cost effective solutions others are using.

That was my strategy when I sold cars. I hated filling out paperwork when I could be selling more cars!  I was amazed by the redundancy of filling out forms that asked for the same exact data, like the sales agreement, AVC form, credit app, odometer forms, temporary registration, and others the government kept adding to protect the customer from me!  

So, I wrote a basic program for my Commodore Vic-20 to print out these forms in minutes, which saved me all kinds of time and shortened the purchase experience for the customer. A side effect of this effort was floppy disks full of names and addresses that allowed me to print letters after I talked my dealer into buying tractor-feed letterhead for my dot matrix printer to stay in touch with my customers and prospects. A more timesaving way to fold, lick, and stamp envelopes is another story!

The point is: Dealers like you created the Certification requirements and agreed that they were the best practices to elevate the customer experience and make dealers more money. Now it’s the MRAA’s responsibility to make them easier to adhere to vs. unnecessarily adding work to your day.

As an example, Certification requires dealers to supply sales follow-up logs with customer name, sale date, call date, person calling and call results. To satisfy the requirement, you must show 100 percent follow-up by phone within seven days of delivery. If a dealer is currently using a CRM system that prompts the team to contact the customer at predetermined post sale intervals (7-day minimum) and generates a report that shows them complying 100 percent, that satisfies the requirement. In fact, it’s exactly what we’re looking for: a method that is integrated right into a dealer’s everyday tools that helps them sell and service more boats.

When we see a separate form filled out that shows post sale follow-up, we look to help the dealer find a way to make use of processes or tools already installed at the dealership to eliminate additional forms or paperwork used exclusively for becoming Certified. Each of the Certification requirements must be fulfilled naturally in your daily routine or they will become a burden rather than a means of enhancing the customer experience and dealer profits.

Your Certification consultants have spent their entire careers looking for the easiest and most effective ways to achieve success. We seek to help our Certified dealers do the same.

Tags:  certification  consultants  intent  requirements  resources  training 

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No time for training

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 21, 2017

During my early days running a dealership and then later at Channel Blade, we constantly made or heard the excuse: “We don’t have time for training. We need to work the phones or sell or fix something.” 

We learned later that not dedicating time to training cost us a ton in wasted time! Not to mention lost customers and sales because the crew wasn’t up to speed on their product, the competitor’s products, or the sales skills to help people buy.

Dealers today still find it difficult to dedicate time for training. That was the subject of a conversation I had with Liz Walz leading up to MDCE 2016. If you know Liz, you know that she is extremely passionate about dealer education and works vigorously to produce hours of training on multitudes of topics by industry experts, available at MDCE and MRAA.com in the MRAA Resource Center and MRAA Interactive Virtual Training System. She gets frustrated knowing that dealers are struggling to take advantage of training that could make a real difference for their team.

That’s where I came in. Liz asked me to create a training workshop at MDCE to show dealers how easy it is to create a simple plan to educate their people without adding more hours to the day. Fortunately, Liz asked me early in the year, as it took most of that time to find ways to make the process simple, with just a few steps.

We gave the workshop at MDCE, offering a complementary workbook to help attendees learn:

  • The why behind training
  • Who needs training
  • How to define your training needs and set training goals
  • Where to find training resources
  • How to schedule training
  • How to track and assess the results

It’s really that simple: determine who needs training, what training you need, what’s the goal for the training, find the training, and then schedule it! Schedule it? That’s the problem! We can help you find unique ways to work training in more often without working longer hours.

Now, we’re taking the research we did for that workshop and expanding upon it, transforming it into an MRAA Guide to Training that will walk you and your team through the planning (and if needed, budgeting) process from start to finish, offering you the chance to customize your strategy to fit your dealership’s and your team members’ unique needs and interests.

We spend time on getting buy-in from both employees and management. You simply need to find out what your crew wants to learn and keep it in line with management’s priorities. As we mentioned in a recent blog on job descriptions, marine dealers can see a big benefit from performance evaluations. This is yet another reason for them: So you can find out what your employees want and need to learn, instead of just checking the box that you did training. Click here to access the MRAA Member Resource: 10 Tips for Marine Dealership Performance Reviews.

Lastly, to keep training perpetual in your store, it’s important that every course your dealership attends or conducts has a goal and that you track the results. We are confident that when you train on a certain area, you will get better results in that area. When you get better results, you will keep doing what got you the results.

Tags:  education  resources  time management  training 

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