Only 3 percent of America rides our product, so you have a choice. You can wait for someone to walk in your door, or you can go get ’em. One scenario is built outward from what’s convenient for the dealer and the staff. The other is built inward from what’s convenient for the customer. Which do you think maximizes the most sales, promotes organic referrals and builds intense loyalty?
Pruning the tree
Why are we so terrible at getting people off our team when it’s necessary? From my perspective, by the second time you consider cutting someone loose, you’re probably one time too late with the decision. The answer is that it’s easier to hold on to the employee than to have to recruit, hire and train someone else. So who suffers? The customer. They get the same lackluster, product-driven dribble they could just as easily have read off a brochure. But constantly reassessing your staff and pruning the tree is hard work, and uncomfortable. So what? It’s not about you. It’s about the customer.
Several OEMs have gotten into the e-comm world with the intent of taking the business to where the customer happens to be. And yes, we can debate how effective it is at pushing traffic into the stores, but the intent is clear. If you bring the business to the customer, making it easy to buy, they will buy more. Amazon has gone so far as to allow purchases with one-click, and delivery to my house in two days. I can’t even develop buyer’s remorse between the first and second click of the mouse, because there is no damn second click. Take the business to the customer, and make it easy.
Hours of operation
Why do we continue to cater to the unemployed? When we look at the demographics of our customers, there’s one major component that is shared between street, sport, off-road, adventure, Harley, sport-touring and touring riders. These people have money. Which means they work. Which means most of them aren’t available from 9-6. And when considering the age of the average buyer (46 per MIC), most of them have families. So guess what happens to my Saturdays? Unavailable. And what are your hours of operation? Let me guess… 9-6 for five or six days out of the week, and 10-5 on Saturdays. Am I close? So when exactly do you think I’m going to get to your store to take time to check out the new models? Do you really think I’m going to fight traffic to get to your store by 5:45 p.m. when you’re sales crew is pulling in the units? Have a night where you stay open late, and do something that night (meet the staff, garage party, etc.).
FYI — props to the dealers who have movie nights in their stores, and those who promote events after the normal hours. And special props to my friends at Renegade Harley-Davidson who rented out a nearby movie theater during non-banking hours to have an invitation-only showing of “Why We Ride.”
Customer satisfaction surveys
I recently filled out an 18-month survey for a particular manufacturer. (Yes, I actually kept one of my bikes for 18 months.) I knew how important it was for the dealer that I fill it out. I knew how important it was to give a perfect score. I filled out every question with these two pieces in mind, but I did something a bit unique. I actually read every question before answering. Once finished, I was exhausted and frustrated. Forty minutes to fill out a survey? And what do I get out of it? Nothing. It wasn’t for me … it was for the manufacturer. And we truly wonder why we get so few of them coming back?
According to the TV show, bars need to reinvent themselves every 18 months to two years. Why? Because it’s not about what’s behind the bar … it’s about the environment in which I purchase the stuff behind the bar. A fresh new look will provide surges of new customers into the bar, as opposed to the “regulars” who account for the majority of the business. So how often does your store get a facelift? And no, I don’t mean just moving the bikes around. I’m talking about the fresh new look that causes people to come in to check it out.
Running “lean & mean”
Home Depot was one of the first to install the self-checkout lines. Why? Because when someone is ready to pay, they’re ready to go. Ever notice how much merchandise gets put down next to the registers in your average retail store? Customers get exhausted by having to wait to pay, so they set it down and leave. How long is the wait into your F&I department once I’ve decided to buy a bike? How deep is the line at your cash registers? How much would it really cost to have an extra employee to facilitate that transaction, and how many additional transactions are necessary to justify the cost of that one person? Running “lean & mean” is so incredibly detrimental to a store’s health. The staff is the only thing that separates you from the “other guy.”
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always had.
Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.