Chase perfection

Several years ago, Surfside 3 Marina, based in Lindenhurst, N.Y., (Ranked 3 in 2005, then purchased by MarineMax) made a decision that transformed its business.

It created a new position with one main responsibility — to listen.

“I was hired to be the eyes, ears and voice of the customer,” explains Janice Mottern, CSI expert. “They asked me to look at every department and see where the customer’s voice wasn’t being heard.”

To ensure customer’s complaints weren’t falling through the cracks, for example, Mottern created a computerized log into which all customer communications are entered. Service writers are required to check the log daily and respond to customers.

In addition, she standardized customer follow-up after a sales or service experience, from postcards and phone calls to e-mails. And check sheets have been created for processes like boat delivery to ensure consistency.

Part customer psychiatrist, part inter-departmental liaison, Mottern is behind Surfside 3’s transformation from a customer satisfaction nightmare to a CSI dream. This, in turn, has driven jumps in sales and profitability for the Top 100 dealer.

In the first quarter of 2003, service satisfaction was a dismal 2.6 out of 5 and sales satisfaction, 3.19 out of 5. As of the end of October, customer satisfaction with service had climbed to 9.54 out of 10 and sales was rated a 9.53.

With 12 locations in the New York metropolitan area and over 1,000 boat buyers per year, that’s a significant accomplishment. What it boils down to, according to Mottern, is communication — both between departments within the company and between the company and its customers.

When a customer has a problem, departments tend to blame each other. As an objective party, she listens to both sides and mediates the disputes, helping everyone work together to fix customers’ concerns.

“You need to be willing to accept change and know that your way isn’t always the best way,” she explains. “It takes a little bit of everybody to run smoothly. And what works now may not work six months from now.”

When we spoke to her in 2005, Mottern was aiming for a perfect score. While other dealers have hit that mark, the sheer number of customers Surfside 3 serves each year makes it difficult to imagine.

“I think it’s feasible,” she proclaims. “It’s listening to every single customer. If you can capture all the problems prior to them escalating into catastrophes, I don’t see any reason why you can’t satisfy everybody.”

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