Set a gold standard

Lowell E. Joy wants all of his dealership’s customers to enjoy boating.

The happier they are, the more products he sells.

With 50 percent of Lakeside Marine’s business (Ranked 44 in 2006) coming from brokerage boats and trade-ins, that means taking care of the pre-owned boat buyer.

That’s why Joy established the Gold Care Service program, which provides a 12-month warranty to all pre-owned boat buyers. He explains that if a dealership sells a boat as is and there is a mechanical failure, the customer will usually complain and eventually the dealer will give in.

“You end up fixing the things for him anyway as a matter of customer service, but you’ve done it in a negative atmosphere because the guy ranted and raved and screamed and hollered,” he says. “If you put a positive attitude on it and say we’re going to fix it anyway, you might as well take advantage of that and say to the customer, ‘It’s covered under warranty for 12 months.’”

In Ohio, six of the 12 months are winter anyway, and Joy says if something is going to go wrong, it usually happens pretty quickly. Only four or five percent of the pre-owned boats the dealership sells end up back in the service shop for a major problem within that warranty period. That’s because before the dealer takes a boat in on trade, it runs it through a checklist and if there are problems, it either decides not to take it or puts the money into fixing it.

“We set it up because when we take a boat in trade, we obviously want to sell it to a customer that’s going to be happy,” sums up Joy.

Lakeside Marine also offers a 24-hour service hotline to all customers. This allows them to talk to a live person when they have a problem to either walk them through a solution or send someone to them to take care of the problem.

Joy says his dealership’s average margins on pre-owned boats are comparable to its new boats, in part because it sets and sticks to an actual cash value (ACV) on each boat taken on trade.

“When we take a boat in trade to sell a new boat, that ACV is going to be followed,” he declares. “If it’s an outdated model or we’ve got too much new boat inventory, we’ll take a loss on the new boat inventory. Unless we do something wrong, we should be making our normal margins on that used boat.”

Part of Lakeside Marine’s business philosophy is to stand out from its competitors. The dealership mentions its Gold Care Service program in its TV commercials, for example, because it’s one more reason why potential boat buyers might choose it over other dealers that offer the same type of boats.

“If you want to be special, you have to do things that not everybody is doing,” Joy says. “We’ve got things in the works right now to kick it up another notch in the way we go to market and serve our customers. That’s a big priority for us — to keep improving and doing a better job of running the business.”

This best practice can also be found in the Sales Department and CSI Strategies categories.

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