Top 100 boat dealers share CSI and customer service strategies

The Boating Industry Top 100 dealers represent some of the best boat dealers in North America. In the Top 100 Spotlight, we share some of their best practices. 

It furthers the mission of the Top 100 program: to not only recognize the best dealers, but to share their knowledge and experience with the entire industry. 

This month, we share tips from four Top 100 dealers on improving customer service and CSI scores.

Make delivery fun

Marine Center of Indiana uses a light show to welcome new owners.

Marine Center of Indiana uses a light show to welcome new owners.

The entire process of delivering a boat should be fun, reflecting the enjoyment the new buyer is going to get out of boating.

That’s the theory at Marine Center of Indiana, said Fred Book, customer relations director.

“Our in-house delivery is performed in our clean room delivery bay designed just for in-house deliveries,” Book said. “As the customer walks into our delivery bay they are treated to a very cool light show with boating music playing in the background. We do everything we can to make this a fun and exciting experience for the customer.”

Welcome SignAfter the sales team and F&I manager complete the transaction, the customer is handed off to the CSI director, whose job it is to orchestrate the delivery process whether in-house or on the water. The entire delivery process is handled by the CSI staff.

“The end goal is to have our customers feel confident with their purchase and to make sure all questions are answered thoroughly,” Book said.

Lifelong relationships

At Deep Creek Marina, McHenry, Md., the delivery captain takes the lead on making sure customers are happy and ready to give “all 10s” on the CSI form.

After an in-depth delivery and training process, the delivery captain goes over with the owner how important the CSI scores are and reinforces the importance of their satisfaction.

The captain calls every customer one week after their delivery date to check on the boat and see if any new issues have cropped up. He will then follow up one month after delivery to check on the status of the boat and remind them of the upcoming survey. Further follow up calls are made to all owners three months, six months and one year after delivery to ensure all of the outstanding issues have been resolved. Deep Creek focuses on maintaining a lifelong relationship with the customer by offering unlimited lessons and training on that boat.

DSCF2258Finally, the dealership’s Marina Club – which is exclusive to Deep Creek Marina boat purchasers – also helps set it apart.

“We are creating a place for our customers to go and hang out on a daily basis to meet other boaters and friends,” Spiker said. “We are giving back to our customers, giving them a place to hang out, meet other customers, mingle with the staff and create memories.”

Training partnerships

A boater that feels comfortable and safe is going to be a happier boater. With that in mind, Boaters Exchange, Rockledge, Fla., started Boaters Exchange Academy in 2013.

Boaters Exchange Academy is an Accredited Maritime Academy, offering hands-on training for powerboats and sailboats to help customers “boat with competence and confidence.”

Boating Exchange also offers quarterly safe boating classes hosted by the Cocoa Beach Sail & Power Squadron. This gets many new boaters to the store and has resulted in more than 80 state of Florida Safe Boater Cards being issued.

“Our training covers every aspect of boating: trailering, safety, launching the boat, pre-flight inspection, operational instruction, getting the boat on plane and returning the boat to the trailer,” said marketing specialist Nick Raguso. “We are turning into an academic boating powerhouse in the area and the go-to for all your boating education.”

Tracking and documentation

Tobler Marina, Hayden, Idaho, uses a four-phase approach to maintaining CSI scores:

1. Tracking and logging feedback and customer complaints through a Customer Feedback Report. The company tracks and trends CFR by problem and by individual causing, and reviews and makes corrections in monthly manager meetings.

2. A contracted call center is sent a list semi-monthly of all customers who purchased boats from or had service work done by Tobler. All sales customers are called and asked survey questions and a report is sent back to the dealership. Any service customer with an email is sent a survey upon closing of the repair order or called if no email address is in the system.

3. Manufacturer CSI surveys – Tobler tracks individual manufacturer CSI results, and follow up with problems noted with the CFR process.

4. The “We Owe” form – “We have found using this document gives us a much better CSI,” said co-owner Michelle Christian. “The customer has an understanding and level of comfort if something needs corrected or is not complete at the point of delivery. It provides us a source document to communicate, track and follow up with the item needing completed.”

The majority of the problems Tobler faces with a “We Owe” are with supplier issues, such as back-ordered and incorrect parts received. By communicating and documenting these problems at delivery, Tobler sets expectations for resolution.


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