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Ask and you shall receive

July 19, 2011
Filed under Service Providers

Scenario: A customer purchases a new snowmobile from his local dealership. After the break-in period, he takes it to a different dealership – more conveniently located near his riding buddy’s house – for its first service. He picks up the unit from the servicing dealer on the way to a riding weekend up north.

On the first day of the trip, the check engine light comes on, and the engine goes in to “Safe Mode,” severely restricting performance. The frustrated customer calls the dealer from the trail. The service manager has no answers to the problem. He explains they performed the same first service routine they do on all their new sleds including changing the spark plugs, a no-no on today’s computer-controlled direct injection snowmobile engines. The informed customer challenges the manager on this. The service manager apologies and explains that the dealership had just recently picked up this brand, and the service department has limited experience with high performance models. The now very angry customer is left to ride a brand new but poorly running sled for the weekend.

What now? In this case, a short survey emailed to this customer immediately following the service visit could have exposed the negative impact of this honest but undertrained service manager. More importantly, the dealer would have had the opportunity to address the situation with both the customer and the manager. A timely response would potentially save the customer and prevent additional similar negative experiences and the resulting revenue loss.

A recent study of powersports customers showed the average enthusiast spends $5,100 a year in the dealership. The largest portion was on parts and accessories. Second was in the service department. The smallest portion was attributed to major unit purchases (with one purchased every 24 months). In addition, the top 25 percent of those customers spend more than twice that across the same departments. The financial loss to the dealership is real, especially when looked at over the lifetime of that customer.

Lesson learned: A customer’s perception of a dealership is based on his entire experience, not just the initial major unit purchase. Every department in the dealership plays an important role in forming the customer’s opinion of the dealership. Today’s powersports enthusiasts are extremely mobile, connected and engaged. They are used to sharing their experiences and opinions (on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.), both positive and negative, and will do so with you when given the opportunity. Surveying customers for their opinion of your dealership and its departments will provide you with timely, unfiltered, direct customer feedback. Access to this information is invaluable in understanding and managing the customer’s experience with your dealership.

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