Many dealers attend boat shows that are out of their markets, but few use the opportunity to find potential areas of improvement the way that Randy Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Port, does. In most years, Kelly and others from the company make the trip to see what is new on the market, but they also take the opportunity to mystery shop to size up the competition.

This year, like always, they asked the question “what is your service department like?” But the response, which came from that particular dealer’s customer who was posing as a sales person, inspired an entirely new approach to service. That response – “Oh, man, their service department is the best! I came down to my boat on a Friday afternoon, the battery was dead, and they were there by the very next weekend to replace it.”

The Kelly’s Port team was floored. In a following sales team meeting, they tried to understand how a one-week turnaround – for a battery of all things – could be viewed as a positive. Perception, they concluded, drives service satisfaction.

As a company that has always promoted itself by simply stating, “Kelly’s has the best service,” the team decided to define what good service really is. And in Randy Kelly’s mind, good service is same-day service.

“We emphasize at our weekly service meetings that times are tough,” Randy explains, “and that the businesses that will come out on top of this economic downturn will be the people that take care of the customers, get the job done right, and get it done quickly.”

In an effort to launch a same-day service program, Kelly strategized with his service managers on how to make it happen. They concluded that their lead time from service call to service was less than five hours. So they guaranteed that anytime that a new boat sold at Kelly’s Port will not start or run anywhere on Lake of the Ozarks, on any day but Tuesday (company is closed), they will have a technician at the dock by the end of that day or will give the customer a $500 gift certificate, so long as they call prior to 10 a.m.

The seven-hour lead time is a bit more conservative than the five hours they had figured, but the company intends to benchmark the process and improve on it every year, guaranteeing calls before noon next year and guaranteeing the company’s certified pre-owned boats the next year. The ramp-up time will allow them to get their processes in order while not overburdening themselves in the first year.

“The image it creates for Kelly’s,” Randy explains, “whether folks are looking at buying a boat from us or not, is that we understand that it is our obligation and duty to make sure that they and their family members are out on the water as much as possible.”

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