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2016 Editor’s Choice: Skier’s Marine

By Liz Keener

Skier’s Marine

Westover, Ala.

There’s no doubt that Skier’s Marine operates in an extremely competitive boat market. Among other boat dealerships, Skier’s competes with two of the top four ranked dealers in the 2016 Top 100 — Singleton Marine and Russell Marine.

But Skier’s Marine holds its own.

In 2015, the dealership was able to increase its revenue by 58 percent and kept its CSI score percentage in the high 90s, all while adding a new location, swapping out one major boat brand for another and adding staff.

In the fall of 2015, Skier’s Marine purchased a new facility on Lake Martin, where Singleton and Russell each have multiple locations. Since then, the dealership has already become profitable, and the Lake Martin location expects to double its year one results in its sophomore year.

“This is a competitive state, and you must work hard and be innovative to stay competitive in it. We believe this makes us better as a dealership,” Chad Tyler, vice president of operations, says.

In addition to opening a third dealership, Skier’s Marine dropped a major boat line it had carried for 21 years and added MasterCraft. The sales focus then switched to the quality of the boats, and Skier’s Choice believes that change was the biggest factor in its impressive revenue growth.

To accommodate the new location and the new boat brand and to keep its customer service standards on par, Skier’s Marine hired more staff. Employees were added to service and sales, and a customer experience manager was brought on.

Though the customer experience manager wasn’t hired until Dec. 1, she made an immediate impact on the business, and the dealership expects her role will keep its CSI scores high. In 2015, Skier’s Marine earned 100 percent CSI scores from Chaparral and MasterCraft and 98 percent from Supra and Moomba.

The new customer experience manager is expected to follow up with everyone who has done any business with the dealership, thank them for their patronage and ask if there’s anything the dealership could’ve done better. She also handles all digital marketing to keep the messaging consistent, and she plans all events for the three stores.

Even before the customer experience manager was hired, social media was a focus for Skier’s Marine in 2015. The dealership increased its social media advertising spend, paying about $750 per month for boosted posts and ads on Facebook. The dealership recently reached 2,400 Facebook likes, and it is now posting a few times per week.

“One of the biggest things we did was increase our social media advertising dollars exponentially, targeting specific sets of buyers with different ads. For example, we ran a Moomba ad set with two different ads, one targeted at women ages 25-65 and one targeted at men ages 25-65 with different images and text. We saw a massive engagement increase due to this targeting and, I believe, an increase in both phone call/door swings and brand awareness due to this approach,” Tyler says.

Though Skier’s Marine has invested in its customers, the dealership also knows the importance of supporting its 22 full-time and five part-time employees.

“We pay our employees much higher than any of our competitors. We know that this effects our profit margins negatively, but it also allows us to keep our employees long term, lessening the effects of turnover. In 20 years we have only had to hire four employees and have only had five leave for retirement or other opportunities closer to home. This has made our team extremely close, since they have all worked together for long periods of time,” Tyler says.

The dealership spent more than $36,000 on staff training in 2015. The entire sales staff goes to dealer meetings every year. Techs, both newbies and veterans, are sent to each manufacturers’ schools every two years. A rotation of employees is also sent to the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, 20 group meetings and Spader’s Total Dealership Management Workshops annually.

In 2015, Skier’s Marine worked with its techs to change their compensation plan to increase efficiency.

“Our hourly rate was too high, and our billable bonus was to low to be motivating,” says Tyler. “We talked it over as a team and decided to lower their hourly rate and more than double their billable rate so that the emphasis was off of the hours and on the billable side, but they would make the same or better money as long as they performed as they had been. We kept their hourly rate high enough to provide a good base but not high enough that they did not need to be efficient.”

Compensation is now based on a hourly rate, plus billed hours paid out biweekly. With the immediate reward for billable hours on their next paycheck, the technicians are even more motivated that if theyhad to wait until the end of the month to receive their bonuses.

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