By Christopher Kourtakis, director of sales and marketing, 360° Industry Solutions — In the end, it is not going to matter whether or not the consumer knows what a dealer pays for a boat from the manufacturer. In the end, what matters most to consumers is the level of customer service that they receive. What matters most is that the consumer feels that they received the best value for what they have purchased.
Think about it. You are no different than your consumers when you purchase other goods and services. You want to purchase items from the best stores and dealerships that provide the best service. When you purchase a car, yes value is important, but it is also important to know that they have a good service center, that they are open late and that you can get a loaner if your vehicle is in for service.
You go to a certain dealership because they know your name and welcome you the minute you walk through the door. You feel comfortable with everyone in the dealership the moment you enter the building. Do you have access to what the dealership pays for their vehicles? Yes. Do you care? No. What matters most is that the dealership treats you fairly, and that you get a reasonable deal for your money.
I personally have my boat serviced at a dealership that I know trains their mechanics and spends money stocking the right parts for when I need them. Is their labor rate higher? Yes. Do their parts cost more than the others? Yes. I am a typical customer who visits dealerships on a regular basis.
Do you think that any dealer on Boating Industry's Top 100 list is selling product at low margins or refraining from providing superb service to their consumers? Do you think the customers of Russo Marine or MarineMax are worried about a couple of percentage points that the dealership makes on the sale of their boat? They deliver the dream. They provide the consumer with a level of service that they deserve and want.
If you were to ask Mr. Russo how many customers have walked into his dealership and picked out a boat from stock and purchased it without questioning the price, I am sure he would not have enough toes and fingers from his entire staff to count all of those customers. Why do customers do that? Why do they not haggle? Like me, they do it because of the dealership’s reputation and because they know they will receive help when they need it and will be able to attend rendezvous events that the dealerships host.
Our industry has endured a lot over the years. Letting consumers know what a dealer pays for a boat is nothing compared to the other major economic and social events. When you look back in a couple of years, letting customers know dealer costs will not even be mentioned in the same sentence.
In the end, revealing dealer costs to the consumer will not be an issue in the overall scheme of things. As a dealer, you need to keep going to boat shows talking to your customers and meeting new ones to maintain and grow your business. You need to keep using social media to allow your customer to tell others why they love your dealership. Finally, you need to keep doing what you have done to make your dealership the best in your market. Remember … the customer is going to take home with them the product they bought, but more importantly, they will hold onto the feeling they had in your establishment and the way they were treated while they were there. Good customer service goes a long way in this business and that is what everyone should be focusing on.