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Jul. 13, 2009 – Bold Idea No. 6: Consumer education program broadens customer base

July 13, 2009
Filed under Features

Clear out the bikes. Push back the lifts and line up two or three dozen chairs. Invite consumers in to the cleared area and then ask the service manager or an experienced tech to preach the basics of motorcycle repair and you have all the ingredients for a version of Service Repair 101.
Or Tech Talk, a consumer education program a European multibrand dealership, Pro Italia, started with the intent to draw more traffic into its Los Angeles store.
Actually, the program has been positive for more than just some added floor traffic.
Pro Italia has a stigma of having an expensive service department and anything to make this key profit center more approachable to a higher number of customers can only be positive, co-owner Bill Nation notes.
Secondly, the dealership has sought to expand its customer base beyond the Ducati and MV Agusta enthusiasts it typically draws. And indeed that has happened with Tech Talk, which touches on mainly maintenance and non-expert tech issues that have drawn the interest of other brand riders as well as women.
“People may not buy new ones,” Nation said, referring to the current challenge in new unit sales, “but they are going to work on their bikes and we want people to utilize our service department.”
The dealership holds Tech Talks either once a month or once every other month, depending on the time of the year, with more being held during the traditional slow season. The talks are held on Sundays, sometimes before a televised race.
The Tech Talks, held in the dealership’s service area, usually last for about an hour, although they’ve been known to last longer. Nation says the service department staff tries to ensure they don’t go too long so the audience — a couple of dozen is not uncommon — spends some time in other parts of the store as well. Barbecues are typically held after the talks.
Topic discussions usually are not geared toward the know-it-all enthusiasts, although Pro Italia does hold separate seminars for these riders.
What’s the biggest likely objection to overcome in running a Tech Talk of your own? For Nation, it’s asking the service department staff to come in on a day off for a couple of hours to hold the event.
“You have to have good spirit in the store to do it,” he said.
But Nation notes two big pluses: First the dealership collects contact information from all attendees, which boosts their mail list for future events and marketing purposes, and there is little cost in advertising the Tech Talks. Nation says they promote the events through e-mails and word-of-mouth advertising.
— Neil Pascale

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