When George Wilcox started George’s Marine & Sports in 1969, he set a standard of customer service that guides his son Jeff, the current owner, to this day.
“I can remember times when he left us on Christmas Day because someone had broken down on a snowmobile, and he went in to fix them or get them parts,” Jeff Wilcox says. “That’s just the way it was.”
And that’s the way it will stay, according to Wilcox, who says a commitment to true customer service is what has allowed the dealership to reach its 40th anniversary and will help see it through the current economic crisis.
To maintain a high level of customer service, he says it is crucial to hire employees who buy into your philosophy, and to ask employees who are just there for a paycheck to find another job. Wilcox explains that employees should feel like “non-shareholder owners,” so that customers always get the level of service they would from an owner.
That type of commitment comes from the top down, and Wilcox strives to work as hard as his employees.
“I don’t believe in absentee ownership,” he says.
As a recent example of his philosophy, Wilcox tells the story of a customer at a neighboring dealership who was escorted out the door at closing time and told to stop back another time. Afterward, the customer called George’s, and they told him to come in.
The salesperson stayed two hours after close that day, and a day or two later, the customer bought an 18-foot Maxum. Wilcox eventually got a letter describing what had happened, along with sincere thanks for the service.
“If we don’t have a part in stock and the manufacturer is back-ordered, we will call other dealers. We’ll do whatever it takes to get that customer back on the water. That’s the type of mentality you have to have,” Wilcox says.
The same philosophy applies to all aspects of the business. Wilcox says the service and parts will have a bigger impact on the bottom line during the downturn, yet the department faces increased competition from backyard mechanics laid off from technical jobs.
To compete, it all comes back to customer service.
“We are in a service-oriented business,” Wilcox says, “and I think a lot of dealers forget that.”