After being in the marine industry for 38 years, I still fail to understand why our retail store hours are primarily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. What is more important, satisfying the desires of our workers or being open when our customers need us?
Nearly everyone in the industry claims to understand that our ability to deliver customer service is of paramount importance if we are going to successfully grow this industry. If this assumption is true, and I firmly believe that it is, then we need to be there when our customers need us, as opposed to being there when it is most convenient to us.
There must be a reason why every shopping mall and auto dealership in the country is open every night and most of Saturday, and Sunday too. The answer is simple. That is when their customers have the time to shop with them. Except for shift workers, most of the rest of us working stiffs are working eight hours a day, five days a week. We end our workday around 5 p.m. and arrive home around 6 p.m. There is no way that we can get to your store by your closing time of 6 p.m.
On Saturdays, we are busy doing our grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, and whatever else we couldn’t take care of during the week. There’s not much time left, is there? I live in Naples, Fla., and our fine restaurants do not open until late in the afternoon everyday, but they stay open until 10 p.m. at night. I wonder why? By the way, their patrons are the same as ours. They have money and love to have fun.
Our salespeople are in our businesses to serve our customers five days a week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which totals 40 hours of time when our customers are not able to visit with us. Does this make any sense? No.
What if we decided to rotate our salespeople so that we were open to serve our customers until 8 p.m. three or four nights a week? This would more than quadruple the amount of time that many people could buy from us. If we had three salespeople on our staff, it should not be a major inconvenience to them if each had to work until 8 p.m. one night a week.
We can, and should, learn a lot from our friends in the automobile sector. For one, they have recognized that they had better be there when their customers need service. Their 24/7 service is now an expected part of doing business.
What amazes me is that we are not open for service when our customers are using their boats. Does that make any sense? We know that they use their toys on weekends and holidays, but Lord help them if something goes wrong, because we’re not there to take care of them.
How happy would you be if your boat broke down on July 4th, and there was absolutely NO WAY for you to get any help from your selling and servicing dealer or manufacturer? How many times would this have to happen to you before you said, “I am done boating.”? Maybe some of your valuable customers have already said that.
We can cure that problem by providing 24/7 service or even providing our customers with a cell phone number so they can access a technician when they need one. That does not mean that the technician has to go on a service call. They just have to be able to help the customer over the phone. Yes, you will probably have to pay your technicians a little extra, but you could rotate that cell phone between the techs so that they may only have to be on call one week a month.
What is important is what your customers will think of this added offering. Everyone knows that the industry is struggling with low sales numbers. The expansion of your store hours may help to regain some of those lost sales.