February 12, 2007: Assessing from a customer’s point of view

This series of articles recaps a portion of the opportunities that were uncovered by Gart Sutton & Associates’ powersports specialists during actual consulting visits.
These opportunities are followed by recommended actions that address the issues. The goal is to provide you with ideas to help improve your dealership.
The first step of this three-part series on this particular dealership is to look at the facility from a customer’s viewpoint.
Dealership Details
This multi-line powersports and power products dealership is located in a fast-growing resort town of 100,000. The nearest major city is located more than three hours away. The healthy local economy is fueled both by recreation and oil, and there is a lot of development taking place. For the past 10 years, the dealership has been in a facility of 15,000 square feet. They have outgrown this facility and are actively seeking a new location for a larger store. The dealership has a year-round business with snowmobiles in the winter and motorcycles, ATVs and watercraft in the summer. They sold more than 1,500 major units in the past 12 months.
The purpose of this visit was to conduct a needs assessment of the dealership with a focus on the sales and F&I departments. The goal for the recommended actions was the following: improve unit sales and profits; improve customer satisfaction; and increase F&I product penetration.
Customer’s Viewpoint
The dealership has frontage on a major highway. Signage is well-lit and easily visible for at least a half-mile in either direction on the highway. The dealership’s outward appearance is attractive and inviting to customers. They have created good outdoor unit displays. There are no effective window displays. There are painted signs and banners covering much of the window area. The “Open” sign is clearly visible as is a sign indicating the store hours. Product-line decals cover much of the front entrance.
Parking is adequate, but trailer access and egress is poor. There is no drive-through provision and it is difficult to turn a large enclosed trailer around in this lot.
The customer does get a “WOW!” feeling within the first 10 feet of entering the store because of excellent lighting, displays and focal points. Access to the units displayed is difficult. The units are packed tightly because of the lack of display space and the number of models in inventory. There is no defined path that leads the customer through the showroom area.
Clothing and accessories are not displayed in the showroom, as these are located in the parts department. None of the units have accessories installed.
They have two open desks located on the showroom floor. They are fully exposed with no walls or sound panels. Each desk has a computer terminal and three chairs (one for the salesperson, two for the customers). This provides for excellent visibility of the sales floor, but there is no office where private discussions can occur.
There is one office with a desk for the F&I person. This office is reasonably secure. However, customer records were visible on the desk. Completed transactions are kept in locked cabinets.
There is no customer lounge or waiting area on the showroom floor. Customers waiting for salespeople or F&I staff are forced to sit on products or wander around the showroom.
Recommended Actions

  • Removing the banners and signs that are covering the windows will reveal the showroom to the public. Raised unit displays in the front windows with spotlights would help attract customer traffic.
  • Remove decals from the entrance that affect the view of the store signs unless you are being paid to display them.
  • Clothing and accessories sales improve when they are displayed near the related units. Even though the area available is small, displays such as mannequins could be utilized.
  • Pre-accessorizing a percentage of new units would help display and promote the sale of accessories. Accessorized units are harder for customers to price-compare with other dealerships.
  • There is some area next to the F&I office that could be used to create an enclosed sales office. This would provide privacy for sensitive conversations or negotiations.
  • There is a small area near the service counter that could be developed into a customer-waiting lounge. It already has vending machines and it would hold a couple of comfortable chairs. It also has a view of the accessories displays. This will increase customer satisfaction and create additional sales opportunities.

    Author, speaker and educator, Gart Sutton has been retained by every major powersport manufacturer/distributor. He is a frequent keynote speaker for national motorcycle conventions and state motorcycle dealer association events. Visit

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