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You Can't Score "Wow"

I spend a lot of time talking to dealers and their management teams about benchmarks and guides. Quantitative data is easy to compare (i.e. net profits, gross profits, expenses and such).

The factories try to make it easy to compare qualitative data by assigning scores to customer satisfaction. Customer Satisfaction Indices (CSI), Service Satisfaction Indices (SSI), as well as a whole host of other indices exist to try to measure customer satisfaction and how well you are doing.

One inherent problem is that the numbers can be deceiving because they don’t measure people that don’t buy from you. Dealers can receive awards and plaques for outstanding CSI and customer service, but awards really don’t tell the whole story. They also don’t measure the “Wow!” factor. I define it as the overwhelming experience that turns an ordinary customer into a customer for life, which will have few direct ties to a great CSI score.

Being an ex-dealer who always enjoyed excellent CSI scores, I might be categorized as picky. It is hard to Wow me. Recently I had one of those experiences, and I feel compelled to relate it to our industry.

Having bought more than my share of new boats years ago, and been nailed by the extreme depreciation they suffer in the first few years, I long ago vowed to never buy a new one again. That makes shopping a little more difficult, but nevertheless it was time to do it, and this time, I did almost all my shopping online.

Compared to all the car shopping experiences I have chronicled in these columns, it was a breeze. To my surprise, nearly all brokers and sales agents responded to my e-mail requests in a timely fashion through both e-mail and by phone and with accurate details and descriptions. All in all, it was relatively easy and painless to find and purchase my cruiser at a distance. Why can’t it be that easy with autos?

That wasn’t my Wow experience though; that came later. Buying a used boat, one can expect to spend some money on recon and upfitting. Additionally, nothing is inexpensive. (B-O-A-T does stand for Bring On Another Thousand.) Since I had to pay to transport the boat across the state, I thought I might as well use the service provided by the broker’s service department, since they were the franchise dealer for the brand of boat I bought. I didn’t want to pay to ship the boat twice. Additionally, since some items were factory-only that I wanted added, it only made since. Since it was impossible to miss the plaque on the wall when you walked into their Taj Mahal of a facility proclaiming them the 2006 Boat and Motor Dealer Magazine Dealer of the Year, as well as CSI plaques from their factory, I figured they had to have something going for them.

To make a long story short, I placed three calls to their service department, talked with their service manager and let him know that I had just bought a used boat brokered through his company and that I was prepared to spend a good chunk of money with them. I was dismayed at the flat indifference offered. I couldn’t even get an estimate on a simple repair without a congressional act. When I finally discussed it with my broker, he offered that if I had someone in my area that could do the work, he would recommend it. I was stunned.

Fortunately, before I bought the boat I had bugged the service/parts manager at the franchise dealer nearest to me (an hour away). I was trying to get an idea of what items would cost, electronics, etc. In truth, I was probably being an annoyance since I wasn’t their customer and didn’t even own a boat yet. In spite of that, their service manager (Gabby) was very attentive. She called me back with prices and alternative ideas to save me money (which I hadn’t even asked about), and of course suggested that I buy one of their used boats. My Wow- experience had already begun, but I didn’t know it yet.

Heeding my broker’s comments, I called Gabby back. Additional dollar signs were spinning in my mind as I now had to pay to transport the boat a longer distance and further away from me.

All those feelings were quickly assuaged by Gabby. Despite the fact that I had not bought my boat there (they didn’t have exactly what I wanted), she quickly offered, “Don’t worry, I will find a way to get everything done, and I promise you’ll love it!” I hung up figuring I was dreaming.

For the next week, while I was on the road, she stayed in touch with me – always calling or e-mailing me before I could her. Nevertheless, the skeptic in me knew the “other shoe” had to drop. It couldn’t be this easy or this pleasant. I held my breath when I drove up to pick it up after it was finished (at the exact time it had been promised).

Gabby had done it—in Florida no less, not normally known for customer service. She had Wowed me. She thought of every detail that would be important to me and came in under budget (and much less than what it would have cost at the “Dealer of the Year”). She did suggest to me a bunch of additional stuff, which I eagerly bought, all because she Wowed me. At delivery, my initial thought was, I have a couple of dealer friends that would kill to have Gabby work with them. She is a gem that makes a difference, and she has even been selling boats on e-Bay just to help out. They would hire her in a heartbeat and probably pay her the Franklin Mint. But there I stopped, because then she wouldn’t be the service manager at my new boat dealer for life.

I learned a lot through this experience. My stores had great CSI, but they didn’t have a Gabby. I can’t imagine what that would have been worth. My charge to you, find your own Gabby. Don’t settle until you do. Great CSI is good, but to really make a difference, you have to find a way to Wow them.

Until next month,
“Wow” them!

Vol 5, Issue 8


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