Will your dealership make The Cut?

If you’re a dealer who wants to set your business apart from the pack, you may soon have a new way to do it.
The Grow Boating initiative launched by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Transamerica last year now includes a fourth task force that addresses dealer sales and service, according to Thom Dammrich, NMMA president.
While the first three task forces were set up last year, a strong retail presence at the group’s latest meeting in March helped bring the issue of sales and service to the forefront.
If successful, at a meeting this fall, the Dealer Standards and Quality Task Force will deliver a set of specific sales and service standards that dealers will have to meet to achieve certification. In addition, it will create a Customer Bill of Rights for dealers to hang in their businesses.
Not a new idea
This isn’t a new idea. Some of the most outspoken industry dealers have been talking about the need for manufacturers to set – and enforce – higher dealer standards for a long time.
They’ve argued that the lack of standards has created a level of customer service that is inconsistent at best, leaving many consumers dissatisfied with their boating experience, with no clear path to satisfaction. Dissatisfied boaters often abandon boating for other forms of recreation, which has a ripple effect on the whole industry.
The idea behind dealer certification is that consumers will have a clear path to those dealers most likely to provide a satisfactory sales and service experience. The marketplace will take care of the rest, suggests Dammrich.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where dealers will insist on selling certified product and boat builders will insist on selling through certified dealers,” he explains.
For this to work, through, the certification program has to be marketed to the boating public. And an all-industry marketing campaign is another item boating professionals have had a hard time agreeing on. In addition, the dealers will have to be able to deliver a quality product that can live up to its own set of standards. Therefore, the success of the sales and service leg of the Grow Boating initiative will depend on the success of at least two of the other three legs.
Dammrich, however, is hopeful. He says the new dealer standards, combined with the product quality standards being established, “will lift the whole industry a little bit at a time. Then, when we promote boating to people and drive them to the dealerships, we can be confident that they’ll get a good sales experience, a good product and a good service experience, and hopefully, we’ll retain them.”
Task force still in development
As we went to press, many details regarding the standards and certification program were still being worked out.
Which independent body would oversee the certification had yet to be decided. How that body would determine which dealers meet the standards was up in the air. What criteria dealers would be asked to meet had not been established. And even the task force remained somewhat in limbo.
Massachusetts boat dealer Larry Russo Sr. has been appointed the chairperson, with Dave Marlow of Sea Ray, Jeff Going of Zodiac, Bob Lumley of Bombardier Recreational Products, Mike Gyorog of Mercury Marine and David Grigsby of Yamaha joining him on the task force. Dammrich said that a few more dealers and perhaps another boat builder remained to be appointed.
Whoever rounds out the task force will join the other members in “a pretty intensive effort ahead,” Dammrich says. After delaying the release of a comprehensive Grow Boating plan once already this year, he is holding out hope that the group will be “a long way toward completion by the fall.” — Liz Walz

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