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What we all can learn from a mouse

By Christopher Kourtakis, director of sales and marketing, 360° Industry Solutions — A couple of weeks ago, I took my family for the first time to see Mickey Mouse in Orlando.  It had been a few years since I had been there and it was the first time my kids were going, so everyone was pretty excited.

Throughout that week I was amazed at how perfect everything was and that you never saw a maintenance person working on the grounds or even cutting the grass.  I was even more surprised at how Disney gets away with charging $12.00 for a hot dog and $6.95 for a fountain drink. Seriously, we all know what a hot dog, cup and fountain pop costs, yet everyone lined up to pay top price for anything and everything in the park.

Looking at the lines and the prices got me thinking about SeeDealerCost.com. Yes, they provide the potential client with an idea of what the dealer paid for the boat, but in the end, the deal is signed because of the level of service that the customer received from the dealership, not because of the price. Don’t get me wrong, price is a factor, but not as much of a factor for someone who wants to own that specific boat and is looking for a dealership with a good reputation that they can trust to sell them a good boat, service the boat and finally take care of them when they need help.

Everyone in line at Disney knew what the cost of the food was, but they still got in line and paid the price. This is no different than someone who uses SeeDealerCost.com, goes to a dealership and then buys the boat. In the end, it is all about the experience. It is about seeing the smiles on the faces of their family members. As time goes on, the customer will forget about the cost of everything and enjoy the memories and the moments that they share with their families on the boat that you sold and will maintain for them.

If a dealership can;

  • Anticipate what the customer wants
  • Make all of their dreams come true
  • Make their experience better than they imagined

Then the dealer will have a customer for life and that customer will not care what they pay for the experience. Why can’t every dealership be like Walt Disney World? We have the tools, the resources and the knowledge. All they have to do is implement and use them every day.

4 comments

  1. I don't think this analogy really works. Those people in line couldn't just go across the street to find someone else from which to buy that hot dog. Disney has a captive audience. Boat dealers don't.

  2. Part of the problem is that you are not paying $12.00 because it's a better hot dog. You are paying more because Disney has created a demand to be at a specific location, and they have eliminated all competition at that location. If the overall experience is fantastic expensive food is a minor inconvenience. Especially if you consider that you would have paid the same price for that hot dog at Universal Studios.

    Where I think your theory breaks down is when you imply that the customer has a choice. Dealer territories place geographic restrictions on the market similar to Disney, but they don't guarantee a "Disney like" experience. While southern states may offer more choices to boaters, here in New England, my choices are limited and dealers tend to be very territorial. If I decide on a specific model of boat I'm pretty much stuck with the local dealer, whether I like him or not, because the next one is a two or more hour drive by land or even more by water. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few boat lines that have more than one dealer in the state of Massachusetts. I frequently hear complaints from dealers about customers who are shopping around and they tend to resist servicing boats purchased elsewhere. You may be able to smuggle a $6.00 hot dog into Disney, but you probably won't be able to get anybody to put mustard on it for you.

    So the result is that you have customers choosing boats based on their dealer options, not their boat options. Customers who can afford to pay more for service have to overcome the disappointment of limited choice of models, while customers on a budget are disappointed because service is so expensive. If you'll forgive the pun, they won't relish their $6.00 hot dog.

    I understand that dealerships have to allocate limited resources to support their loyal customer base, but I don't understand why they get so offended when the customer buys a boat elsewhere. I bet they shopped several dealers when they bought their last truck. Treat customers right and maybe they will buy their next boat from you, and even if they don't you still profit from the service.

    When your customer wants boat A, and you push boat B, chances are the customer is going to buy boat C, which is going to look a lot more like an RV or a summer home.

  3. I concur with the above two posts. It is a matter of convenience to pay an inflated price for a consumable item while at a venue for the day. Boats are wants not needs. An asset such as a boat or outboard motor are most likey going to be research and shopped in the market place via the internet, not impulse purchased because the customer is "hungry or thirsty".

  4. Nice try but no. You are trying to rationalize that this new web site is good for dealers. Once you get out of fantasy land and visit the REAL world I think you will have a different outlook.

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