Make it picture perfect

When a customer at Hardin Marine Arrowhead (Ranked 97 in 2006) has a concern with his boat, employees first ask the customer to take a picture of the problem area and e-mail it in.

“It’s not rocket science,” Barry Lieberman says, “especially since nearly everyone has a camera phone. Most are thrilled to do it.”

Manufacturers often ask the dealership to submit photos of problem areas on their boats, and Hardin Marine Arrowhead has been e-mailing customers photos of boats in storage when something is amiss, so it was a natural extension to ask customers to send photos to them, says Lieberman, president of the four-store dealership with locations in and around the San Bernardino mountains.

“Most boat owners don’t know the bow from the stern, so snapping a picture and sending it to us gives us a jump start to figure what is wrong and how to fix it,” Lieberman says. “When folks in my area buy boats, most don’t have a clue what goes into it. All they know is they have a boat.”

In one instance, what a customer described as an upholstery problem actually was scratches on the boat’s side panel, and having the picture beforehand negated a call to the upholstery repair person.

Oftentimes, the e-mailed picture allows a remote diagnosis of the problem so parts can be ordered ahead of time, which allows the service technician to make the repair in the field in just one trip. “We can take the right stuff so we can get it right the first time,” Lieberman says.

Making this practice work in a dealership involves a slight cultural shift among front-line employees to train them to ask the right questions, request an e-mail image and possibly do a little hand-holding with technology neophytes.

“People see the benefit, so we don’t get any push back,” Lieberman says. “They feel you are really trying to help them out – and that’s the truth.”

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