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Oct. 15, 2007 – A new focus on customer service

October 10, 2007
Filed under Features

As part of its “Blueprint for the Future,” Yamaha Motor Corp. USA recently launched a customer-focused program that places more focus on customer satisfaction and marketing attempts than just unit sales.
The Pro Yamaha dealer program, which focuses on getting dealers to focus on customer satisfaction and needs, is designed to grow a dealership’s business by encouraging it to become an epicenter for motorcycle and ATV riders. To do this, the company is offering several incentives, including a unique marketing revenue bonus that dealers can use to reinvest back into their businesses.
“I think that one thing we’d like for our dealers to do is think more about the customer and how they can grow their business by doing the types of things that customers are expecting from retailers today,” said Joe Dagley, division manager of Yamaha’s motorcycle operations. “The motorcycle and ATV business is not growing by leaps and bounds like it was doing a few years ago. And we understand that for us to be successful and our dealers to be successful, we better do a pretty darn good job with the customers we have coming through the door.”

Customer satisfaction score
The foundation of Pro Yamaha is built around customer satisfaction, with dealers needing to attain a satisfaction score of 92 to become eligible for the program’s benefits. Previous customer satisfaction scores were reset Oct. 1, with dealers using a revamped survey system to tabulate their scores. The biggest part of the program are the surveys, which are offered by mail to each customer after he/she visits a dealership, which they can then fill out online or mail back to Yamaha. Once filled out, that information is sent to Yamaha, which then sends the information real-time back to the dealer online, showing positive comments that were made, along with suggestions to improve areas that customers mark as unsatisfactory.
The point system is based off a set of goals Yamaha believes each dealer should be achieving to help their business grow, from following up with customers after a sales visit to efficiency in the service department.
“What we’ve done is identified all the things that we think Yamaha dealers should be doing,” Dagley said. “It does encompass all areas of the business, from the sales department to the parts department, the PG&A department and the service department. So what we’re asking dealers to do in the area of sales, for example, is follow up with customers and make sure that they have customer contact after the sale. We’re asking them to focus on completing sales and service training activities, so we can make sure the dealership personnel are the most knowledgeable as possible. Making sure that there are systems in place in the service department, so that if work comes into the dealership, it can be performed efficiently and done right the first time so the customer can get that product back so they can ride.”
Dagley says even more important is that a dealer try to make their business the center of the riding community they’re in. Not only will it help gain a trust with customers, but it will also lead to more customer referrals and foot traffic.
“If you’re a motorcyclist and you go to a dealer, and you’re a R1 enthusiast or an R6 enthusiast, customers tell us that they like buying from dealerships that understand the lifestyle around sport motorcycles, and like buying from dealerships that hold events such as Track Days,” he said. “If you’re a motocross rider, we’re asking dealers if you’re going to be involved in the program then really try to be the center of motorcycling for your community. We don’t necessarily want our dealers to focus only on motorcycles; we want them to focus on motorcycling. We want them to set themselves apart from the guy across town whose only interest is selling another piece of iron and not so much focused on the lifestyle for the customer.”

Unique incentives
One of the most interesting aspects of the Pro Yamaha program is the marketing revenue incentive, which Yamaha provides to dealers to reinvest in their business, either by holding more riding events, like bike nights.
“The dealers will be rewarded a financial incentive, and take that and reinvest it back into their dealership to improve their business and customer satisfaction,” Dagley said. “For example, they’ll be able to take marketing funds to host events, to do activities really focused around customer satisfaction, to grow the business and keep customers happy with the Yamaha product.”
Dave Park, Yamaha’s national dealer development manager, says the recognition of being a Pro Yamaha dealer carries its own weight, as well, and the ultimate goal is for dealers to achieve increased profits for their businesses as a result of their customer service efforts.
“There’s some monetary incentives, for example the marketing fund and also additional co-ops, but what the non-monetary incentive of being able to advertise yourself as a Pro Yamaha dealer is also big,” he said. “But really the biggest benefit is the growth that your business can achieve by participating in the program and doing all these things. They’re designed to help customer retention and satisfaction. And through the customer attention the dealers will hopefully realize increased profitability.”

Unique program, partnerships
Yamaha admits that without the support of its dealer network, achieving customer satisfaction is a near impossible task. The company hopes this program will strengthen the partnerships with its dealers, which in turn will benefit both the company and the dealerships in the end.
“We really view our relationship with our dealers as a partnership,” Dagley said. “And we recognize that for this partnership to be successful, we need to work very closely with our dealers to help them understand what’s necessary to grow their business and profitability. So the whole program is really built around this partnership that we view with our dealerships. Our program is inclusive; it’s large dealers, small dealers, single line, multi line. The last thing we want to do is alienate our dealer network by excluding any of them. That just defeats the purpose of the entire program.”
Park says the company spent a year refining the program before introducing it to dealers in September, and that once people are educated about it, they’ll realize how unique the Pro Yamaha program is, which he says is a first of its kind in the powersports industry.
“Most of the programs that are out there now are really retail based, and that’s not what this program is,” he said. “It’s really more about building dealer quality and being more customer-focused, and that’s very unique in the powersports industry. We’ve had several focus groups that we’ve consulted with, and we really didn’t base it off any other program because there’s nothing out there like it right now. The initial reaction from our dealers has been really positive, and we’re excited for the future of this program.”

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