Serious Service

Traverse Bay Marine (Ranked 98) takes its service department seriously.

It accounts for more than 10 percent of the Michigan dealership’s revenues and — with a gross profit margin of more than 70 percent — likely makes up an even bigger chunk of its bottom line.

And it’s driving the company’s growth. Despite serving a boating market that some estimate is down more than 40 percent, the company’s overall revenues were up 22 percent in 2006. This is due in part to its policy to service all customers who visit the dealership, whether they purchased the boat from Traverse Bay or whether it sells their boat brand.

“We are located in a northern seasonal tourist area,” says Traverse Bay President Jim Rautio. “We see customers who have purchased boats down south and are up north using them. They break, they bring them to us, and we fix them. What we have found is this: the next time they purchase a boat, they purchase it from us.”

That’s even more likely now that the dealership has introduced what it calls its “newest service revenue, profit builder and outstanding service reputation builder” — overnight express service. That’s right. For a premium price, Traverse Bay Marine customers can drop their boat off at the end of a long day of boating and pick up the newly serviced vessel the next morning in time to begin yet another blissful boating day.

In an industry in which many boaters often wait weeks or even months to be squeezed into a busy service department’s in-season schedule, this accomplishes Traverse Bay’s intended result, sending a message that “we are the dealer committed to service as well as customer satisfaction.” It also helps the industry’s efforts to grow boating. While other dealership’s customers are waiting, Traverse Bay’s clients are out on the water, enjoying their passion for boating.

Rautio explains that “At Traverse Bay Marine, we are looking at striving to become better, not to just maintain. We know to get what we’ve never had, we must do what we’ve never done.”

With its new overnight express service, the dealership is doing exactly that. And it’s doing it in a depressed boating market in which many dealerships have gone out of business. That’s the kind of success that makes Boating Industry proud to name Traverse Bay Marine a Top 100 Dealer.

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