Certifiably better

Dealers certified through Grow Boating have significantly higher customer service index scores than non-certified retailers, providing the first concrete evidence — and perhaps the best reason to get certified yet — that the system is working.

Data from Grow Boating for the third quarter 2006, when compared to the same quarter of the previous year, show an 8.2 percent advantage for certified dealers on an initial survey of a customer’s overall satisfaction with a dealer, 93.7 versus 86.6 for non-certified dealers. The good news overall is that CSI scores were up for both certified and non-certified dealers. However, scores among certified dealers were up twice as much.

“We’ve always suspected a link between certification and higher CSI scores, and this confirms it,” says Terry Leitz, director of CSI programs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. NMMA provides the staff for the Grow Boating initiative. “Seven points at that end of the scale is a big difference, especially on an end of the scale that already was high.”

As of mid-February, 431 dealers are involved in the certification program in some fashion, including 403 that have attended a certification workshop and 189 certified dealers. “Our goal by the end of the 2007 was to have 500 dealerships going through the process, so we’re tracking toward where we were thinking we needed to be,” Leitz says.

Although higher CSI scores certainly are appreciated by dealerships, the real benefits from becoming certified come from the operational efficiencies that a dealer can gain, says Bob Williams, president of Five Star Solutions, which is conducting the certification audits.

“CSI is the result of a well-structured, well-run company,” Williams says. “A better store gets viewed by customers in a more positive way, which helps the bottom line and employees’ paychecks.”

The certification process for marine dealers employs principles of lean, the continuous improvement methodology developed in the manufacturing field, to drive out waste and needless costs throughout the dealership, Williams explains. “Satisfied customers buy more, which grows profits,” he says, “so happier customers are more profitable customers.”

By mapping the various processes that occur within the dealership, standard operating procedures can be developed to satisfy customer needs and help ensure 100 percent follow-up. The result is not a rigid formula to be administered without forethought, but a set of operating guidelines that form the basis of a strong bond with customers.

“You have to listen to customers to see if they approve of your processes,” Williams says. “It allows you to stay ahead of where consumers are instead of staying behind a locked door.”

The Five Star president believes that every complaint a dealer receives is a gift, an opportunity to address a specific concern, and then apply the lessons learned to making the entire dealership better.

And that’s the ultimate goal of certification – to raise the industry standards for dealerships.

“Dealers that are certified tell a wonderful story about how certification has enhanced their operations,” says Williams, “and that story is spectacular.”

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