As part of the "King of Profits" story in the May 2014 issue of Boating Industry, we asked My-Villages Inc. for their advice on using technology and customer service to better communicate with customers and, ultimately, increase service department revenue.
Never stop improving
My-Villages Inc., is the owner of the widely used DockMaster software suite and a marine software startup that is transforming how customers — and their boats — communicate with marine dealerships, marinas and boatyards. With an eye on taking advantage of new technology, we asked the company for its 10 tips on running a profitable service department:
Know your customers. Knowing more about the boats in your care and the equipment onboard can dramatically improve efficiency.
Leverage manufacturer recommendations. If you know the equipment on the boat, you can find out the manufacturers’ recommended service requirements — and that makes it easier to sell preventive maintenance jobs to owners.
Communicate effectively. Much time is lost to communications with clients, and this is an area that most businesses can streamline. Encourage digital communications, which can cut down on time-consuming phone calls and phone tag.
Embrace new technology. All jobs require the right tools, and building an efficient service department is no different. Using the right software and services can go a long way toward facilitating many of these goals.
Brag about your technology — and everything else. When you establish systems that make life simpler for clients, tell your community about it. Anything you can do to explain to prospective clients how your business stands out from the competition is a solid investment.
Turn clients into advertisers. Make it worthwhile for clients to refer you new business by offering an incentive. A small discount or freebie can translate into thousands of dollars in business.
Streamline warranty work. Warranty policies vary by vendor and it is important that all staff involved in the process know the rules for every vendor you work with. Do some training. Create cheat sheets.
Know your own staff. Learning more about how you are using your crew can be very profitable. Review how you are using your techs on a weekly basis to ensure that the right techs are doing the right jobs. That will also help determine what jobs are taking the most time and where some training might improve efficiency and increase billable hours.
Don’t neglect clerical support. Strong clerical support can translate into huge gains in efficiency. Clerical staff is the glue that holds a shop together, and it makes sense to put some time into them. When hiring, choose someone who has solid clerical skills, even if they are from outside the industry.
Improve continuously. No department can transform itself overnight. Make a list of improvements to make, then prioritize them and delegate where you can. Set some milestones, with specific dates for achievement.