I believe the biggest challenge for 2005 and the years to come centers around growing boating and the lifestyle. I think as an industry we need to allocate as much time and as many resources in keeping the boaters we do have versus focusing too heavily on bringing new individuals into boating.
A wise man once told me, "We must first treat each and every customer and employee like a gold nugget, and that thinking will transition over to how we treat our prospects. Give a customer good service, provide a positive experience, and they will tell a friend. Give them bad service or put a bad taste in their mouth, they will undoubtedly tell 10 friends."
My companies live by this motto, and it works. Customer retention is one of the keys to growth. I think we have an excellent start with the "Grow Boating" campaign, but there are inherent problems that need to be resolved before we can perform as a somewhat cohesive industry. I have worked with the automobile, RV, and motorcycle industries in the past on similar issues and witnessed the changes.
Skip Burdon, President of the ABYC states that, "An inevitable consequence of progress is change." I could not agree with him more and have never worked in an industry that is so closed-minded or opposed to change. We are definitely not any of the aforementioned industries, and I am not saying we want to be. But, no one can argue that they are providing the model and the road map that we are following.
In the last 2 years, many things have begun to be addressed by a handful of manufacturers, such as: the stem-to-stern warranty issue, uniform dealer agreements, industry certifications, product improvements, improved dealer relations and warranty compensation. These issues are all near and dear to my heart, and I believe they represent some of the core challenges that more of us need to work toward to grow boating and keep our current clientele.
Unfortunately, a handful will not cut it. As more builders strive toward NMMA and ABYC standards, product quality increases. With improved warranty practices and dealer relations comes a drastic increase in CSI. I think more manufacturers and dealers are spending time and resources to better educate themselves on the systems and controls that are available to them which will increase efficiency, professionalism, and customer retention.
Once we all make the sound and conscious decision to change and work to keep our current clients and customers happy, the results will shift into the growth of this industry.
President of DealersCircle & President of Sea Safe Group