Dealer certification drives profitability

The Marine Industry Dealer Certification Program consists of business practices the best dealers use to grow their business.

The retail world is undergoing a major transformation.

How and where people shop and what they expect are changing. The consumers driving these changes are shopping for marine products, and they bring with them their other shopping experiences and expectations.

For a marine retailer, this means get smarter, get better, or get beaten. The competition for leisure dollars is intensifying across all industries, and the days of relying on past successes to guarantee the future are gone.

It’s clear that retailers who strive to learn about themselves and to continuously improve are prospering and growing. The best way for a marine retailer to get started down this path is to get certified. Certification is for dealers of all sizes. It consists of good business practices and will help make any size dealership better.

The great news is … it works. Certification is nothing more than a fundamental businessperson’s organizer and measurement tool that insures a dealership’s staff is improving. It is a means of building a culture of continuous improvement by actively finding one’s shortcomings and fixing them. It’s not about being perfect, but about getting better, finding your flaws.

The program has been distilled down to the most crucial core requirements by the “Grow Boating” Task Force. The Marine Industry Dealer Certification Program is designed by dealers for dealers. The marine dealers on the Task Force are people who know the business and care passionately for the future welfare of each dealer.

And it’s optional – it has to be. The top guy or gal has to want to do it and must maintain an unshakable commitment to stand behind it, or it won’t work. It’s not for everyone. It is for those who want to guarantee their future, make more money, reduce employee turnover, have happier customers who refer others for free, and have a business they are proud of. While it is still work in progress, here are the main target areas being considered, and why they impact dealer profitability:

Facility – Just like all other retail environments, a marine facility should have an attractive and inviting presence. Today’s customers expect a spotless and well-maintained facility. Dealerships should strive to mirror the other retail environments their customers are frequenting. This requires a process in place to ensure consistency and frequent inspections. In addition, dealership employees are much happier working in a clean, well-maintained dealership. If the boss is seen picking things up, it sets the tone for everyone else, along with a level of respect. It also keeps employees satisfied and proud to be working in such an environment, which reduces the costs of turnover. Plus, it’s proven that sales and service grosses are higher at attractive, inviting facilities.

Training – Research shows that working with knowledgeable people is vital if a consumer is going to frequent a retail operation. Consumers expect dealership staff to be well versed in their areas of expertise. That means training for everyone, including dealership management, who need to have the skills to lead others. Any dealership intent upon growing its business should have an annual training plan in place for each employee and require adherence by its employees. Customer satisfaction is higher and employee turnover is lower in stores that focus upon training. The former results in higher per unit grosses, and the later reduces overhead costs.

Process Mapping – Permanent fixes of internal operational failures can’t happen after the fact. The only way to prevent them is to consistently do things the right way, which involves a written process for sales and service created by dealership staff. Process mapping eliminates waste, needless staff, expensive re-repairs, and unhappy customers – all with a direct impact to the bottom line.

Customer Follow-up – Following up with customers after sales or service is the best way to learn about yourself and to improve your operation. A complaint is a gift. You get to learn what to fix. You’re only as good as your customers’ experiences, and if you want to grow your business and assure long-term sur. Also, dealerships that are following up with customers have employees that know the boss is listening and watching how they perform. This simple knowledge drives accountability and responsibility. Dealerships that listen to their customers are consistently improving their operations across the board.

Employee – This is pretty basic, but very important. Job descriptions, annual performance evaluations and a professional appearance are basic good business practices, and add to the overall character of your business. Also, offering an annual employee survey puts you in touch with how your employees feel about their jobs. Research has proven that only satisfied employees can satisfy customers. Unhappy employees don’t last long, and are not able to provide the service dealers need and expect. Satisfied customers pay more, and help build your revenue streams.

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