Set yourself apart

One way to set your business apart from the others — and directly boost your profitability — is to market the efficiency with which you respond to customers’ service needs. Here’s an example: My husband, my four-year-old son and I take our only week-long vacation each year at a cabin on the St. Lawrence River in Upstate New York. When possible, we like to park the car in the driveway upon arrival and leave it there until it’s time to head home. The grocery store, restaurants, the golf course and even the playground are accessible by boat. But last summer, we arrived to find the family boat barely limping along.

Our vacation kicked off Memorial Day weekend, so we knew the likelihood that we would be able to get it fixed right away was slim. But we tried to remain hopeful. We called our local service provider as well as a handful of others. In the end, no one could fit us in until the following week. We dropped off the boat for service on our way home from our one and only summer vacation.
Though, as a member of the industry, I understand why service shops often get backed up in peak season, it doesn’t take many little boy tears to get frustrated with such a situation. In fact, you might argue that being an industry insider made it worse. I knew that in another region of the country, another service shop could have had us back on the water the next day.

Traverse Bay Marine, Traverse City, Mich., for example, offers an overnight express service. Last year, Kelly’s Port created a same-day service guarantee. Lakeside Marine offers customers access to an emergency service hotline they can use 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. And several other dealerships offer urgent care services, which complete small jobs quickly to get boaters back on the water. Several report their express service offering is quite profitable and leads to boat sales growth over time. I can understand why. At that point in my vacation, regardless of how much a service shop charged me, it would have been worth it to us to have the boat working again. And knowing that such quick service was available, I’d be hard-pressed to go elsewhere when the time came to buy our family’s next boat.

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