One question on the Top 100 Dealer application can tell you a lot about a company. Section 1, Question No. 20: What did you do last year to improve your business?
Almost immediately upon reading the answer to this question, it seems you can determine if the company is growing or sitting still. Focused on getting better or content to maintain. Movin’ on up or in danger of not making the list.
At Crowe Marine, there’s no such thing as sitting still. Contentedness isn’t even in the vocabulary.
The list of improvements for the folks at this Eatonton, Ga.-based dealership required 18 entries and took 20 pages of its application to outline. And that covered just some of the highlights.
It’s no secret that this company takes improvement opportunities seriously. It took the Marine Industry Certified Dealership concept to a new level by not just adhering to the requirements of process mapping and employee evaluations, for example. At Crowe, every one of the company’s 15 employees participated in the process mapping exercises and agreed to the map before it was determined to be final. Many processes were simplified and improved through the steps, and all maps are displayed in a large format on a wall within the business.
Then there are the employee surveys. Most dealers conduct such surveys — because it’s mandatory to become certified — and the results get tucked neatly away in the file with the rest of the certification audit until recertification time comes around. Not at Crowe.
At Crowe Marine, the survey results were shared with all employees and owners at the company’s inaugural Employee Satisfaction Conference, an avenue for employees to further voice their opinions and know that their voices are being heard. Management also used the opportunity to demonstrate how employee suggestions for process map improvements had been heard and implemented.
The net result of the conference was that the owners and managers made a commitment to improve in four crucial areas: the companywide feeling of being part of a team; creating clearly defined job responsibility forms; growing and charting compensation; and creating programs to reward and recognize employees for outstanding customer satisfaction.
The improvement of the company’s customer satisfaction from 97 a year prior to 99.2 this past year can be attributed to many of these improvements. But perhaps most significant among them was the designation of Beth Crowe as Customer Service Manager. Beth, in fact, took CSI reports for much, much more than they had originally been intended. As she ramped up in her new position and began closely monitoring the CSI reports, she was “astounded at the amount of statistical information” she could gain about the dealer’s customers.
She took all that information and began making sense of it. What began as a curiosity about how the dealer’s pontoon boat customers compared to its runabout customers resulted in the creation of detailed customer profiles. She created a chart to show head-to-head demographic comparisons of the company’s three major boat brands’ typical buyers, giving the company, in her words, “a better understanding of who our customers are outside of a dollar sign.
“We truly value the information that we can obtain from the customer surveys beyond the all-important ‘overall satisfaction’ question,” she explains.
Don’t be mistaken, however. The quest for achieving such high CSI marks is on the minds of all employees at Crowe Marine. And with all the customer perks that the company offers, it takes the entire team. There are the new wakeboard classes, the efforts to send a thank you to every person who passes through their doors, the tin of cookies sent to all customers, the boating classes, and the 24/7 access to company personnel.
It’s this type of all-encompassing focus on developing relationships with its customers that has helped Crowe Marine jump from 77 on last year’s list of Top 100 Dealers to 32 on this year’s list. And it’s the incredible focus on improvement that earns them my Editor’s Pick award for 2007.