It’s no secret that a superior customer experience will keep customers coming back. A recent study from KPMG stated “In today’s retail environment, the phrase ‘customer is king’ ” has never been more true. When price alone is no longer a differentiator, the customer experience must win out. Superior service, convenience, personalization, speedy delivery, and choice are what drive every sale and secure repeat business. In their survey of retail businesses, KPMG asked what initiatives will be the most significant driver of their company’s revenue growth in the next three years. Customer retention ranked the highest at 52 percent. Customer acquisition and product innovations were next with 45 percent and 30 percent respectively.
With the recent headwinds of COVID, conditions for service have been challenging. In talking with a few of our dealer and industry partners I have been hearing that supply chain issues have been improved from a year or more ago. There have been other hurdles such as technician turnover, the inability to hire enough technicians and more. Whatever you are experiencing, we are still seeing turnaround times for some services being extended. For many parts of the country that have short boating seasons the longer a customer’s boat is waiting for service the less time they can spend on the water thus having a direct effect on their boating and dealership experience.
For the last couple of years we have been tracking the amount of time that boats have been spending in dealership service departments. In looking at the past 24 months we compared the most recent 12 months period to the prior 12 months period for boats that had warranty work. The most recent 12 months (July 2022-June 2023) a boat averaged 20 days in the shop, with the prior 12 months (June 2021-July 2022) averaging 21 days. That’s a decrease of one day, meaning the customer had the opportunity to utilize their boat one more day than the prior 12-month period. That is good news.
Even with a slight improvement in the average time needed for warranty repairs there are always ways to improve our businesses. When we look at areas of opportunity for improvement there are a few key best practices that, if implemented, can help your service department tremendously. Here are a few highlights:
The Right Process
Having the right processes in place will allow you to manage the various economic, personnel, and other environmental factors when trying to deliver on the customer experience. Having a process map of the customer journey within your service department is critical to managing their expectations and identifying areas that can be improved on. Throughout the process, make sure that you provide a tailored experience to each customer recognizing their value to your business. As you provide a consistent process for your team, the customer experience will change from a process to an organizational mindset.
The Right Tools
Just like a technician needs wrenches and other tools to perform efficiently, your shop management team needs the right tools to perform in their role. Having a complete software package that allows management to streamline the check in process with mobile devices, a scheduler that works with status updates visible to all dealership employees and automation tools to assist with customer communication to ensure they are kept up to date with the service progress is critical.
The Right Interactions
Providing a consistent experience for your customers will keep them coming back through the door time and time again. For each customer identify how they choose to interact with your business. This may be in person, remote, via text or email, or a combination. Make a preference note for each and continue their interaction experience after they leave your shop. This will ensure they return and provide good reviews with their peers.
By Robert Grant
Director, OEM Solutions | Lightspeed Partner