Any Top 100 dealer knows that you don’t just sell a boat to a customer, hand them the keys and send them on their way. It’s important to have an in-depth delivery process that caters to the needs of the proud new owner. And as we work to attract more new people to boat ownership, closing the skills gap through delivery training is especially important.
This is something Clark Marine has figured out. The dealership’s delivery process was built to answer any and all questions a boat customer may have, as well as any safety questions they may not have thought about before.
“We’re the professionals here and we should basically pose the question before they even think about asking it,” said Rob Brown, owner of Clark Marine.
Because 35 percent of Clark Marine’s customers have never owned a boat before or haven’t in the past 10 years, a detailed orientation is important to make sure the boater is fully prepared to take their new vessel out on their own.
The delivery for all boats, new or used, starts in the store and moves to the water. The delivery technician conducts a walkthrough with the customer that also acts as a final inspection, and the tech is scheduled for an hour of time with the customer to cover all bases.
“Some things are easier to show people do on land as opposed to once you get on the water. Once we get people on the water, we want people to be concentrating on operating the boat,” said Brown.
The technician also goes over Coast Guard equipment, why it needs to be where it is and why the capacity plate on the boat is important.
“The last thing we want is to have one of our customers go out and get themselves hurt, especially if it’s something we could have trained them on ahead of time and kept that from happening,” said Brown.
Brown noted that it’s important to make sure dealers aren’t overloading customers with information in a short period of time.
“You try to introduce these things gradually and ask questions, and hope people respond positively so that they can digest it. That way when they leave, they can recall those conversations we had and understand the importance of some of the things we went over,” he said.
The on-water portion of the delivery is crucial, especially with new boaters. At Clark Marine, they do their best to conduct on-water deliveries on the body of water where customers will most likely be boating.
“Put yourself in a position [where] you’ve never owned a boat before,” said Brown. “Now you’ve got this boat you’ve just paid $15-50,000 for. It’s a piece of machinery. The dealer showed you how to turn the key, you realize you’ve got to put it in the water. That would be a little intimidating to me.”
After Clark Marine takes its customers on the water, they come back inside to go over Clark Marine’s delivery packet, which was a Best Ideas finalist at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in 2014. Contents of the folder include a personalized preferred customer full storage and service package written quote, state of Maine boat requirements, and a custom-created PDI Brown made using manufacturer PDI information, inland fish and wildlife service information and why state requirements are important, and more. Brown sent the PDI to his manufacturers and they signed off on the information, which helps consolidate all of the information for customers from seven sheets to one.
“It’s there for me to educate my customers,” said Brown. “It sounds like it should be a really quick process, but it really isn’t if you’re going to do all of those pieces and making sure that people are comfortable when they leave.”
(You can read more about the delivery packet in the Best Idea white paper at boatingindustry.com/e-white-papers.)
Clark Marine techs are paired with customers based on where the customer lives, because if there are service issues or additional training is needed, that same technician will be visiting the customer’s home. It starts the relationship building not so much with Clark Marine as a whole, but that specific individual.
“They get familiar with that particular technician. A lot of our customers are from far away. If I’m going to send somebody over to somebody’s home, which is a little bit remote, I like them to know who’s going to their home and I think that’s important. It puts them at a different comfort level,” Brown said. “We’re trying to cultivate a good, solid trust-based business relationship. The core of it comes down to [wanting] my customers to be comfortable knowing who’s going to be coming to their home if they’re not there. … You can’t compromise that trust.”