Jun. 14, 2010 – Take a drive on bold idea highway, at your expense

Consider this a “toll” column.
You know like those toll highways popping up across the nation, including in California.
For a “fee,” you can spend the next few minutes learning about some opportunities in the marketplace for dealerships. In fact, I’ll promise a pair of bold ideas that could spur floor traffic, improve sales and extend your market-reach.
But there’s a cost. You keep reading and you’ll owe me two minutes of your time.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the toll system and somehow don’t believe in the pay-now-or-suffer-later approach — what I now refer to as the “Wrath of Toll” — then pay attention to this. Last month, I took a toll highway in southern California and paid an initial $2.50 fee to drive some 10 miles. At the end of this stretch, I was approximately a half-mile away from a state highway turnoff. However, another $2.50 toll stop was between the turnoff and me. But why pay for a half-mile, right? So I bypassed the toll stop and turned off a half mile later.
Three weeks later, the first bill arrived. A $30 fee from the rental car company because the car had been assessed a toll fee.
A day later, a second bill! A $60 fee from the “offended” toll highway operator. For those scoring at home, that’s $90 for a half mile. (And how is the state of California running a deficit of $19 billion?)
So make your decision now: Read the upcoming bold ideas for your dealership and then pay the toll.
Or approach your mailbox with extreme caution over the next couple of weeks.

Additional service sales

How many times do we “touch” a service department customer?
As I’ve discussed this topic with a number of dealers over the past few months, I’ve found this number differs greatly. Some service advisors only really “touch” or communicate with their customer in a meaningful way — i.e. something that could lead to an extended sales opportunity — once. That’s at the time of the initial repair order process.
But how much could we improve sales if we touch the consumer a second time? What’s great about this possibility is there’s already a justified reason to connect with the customer a second time: the “work in progress” call. That “everything looks fine, bike should be ready to go in another hour” call. Why can’t that be a second chance at an extended sales opportunity? “Bike should be ready to go this afternoon just as we discussed, but did I remember to tell you about the accessory sale that’s going on today?”
Or why can’t it be a chance at reducing old hard parts inventory by checking such dealership data against current repair orders?
By the way, as an industry, we’re not very good at communicating with the service customer after they’ve brought their unit into us. Consumer surveys show the “work in progress” call happens less than 50 percent of the time (including less than 40 percent for metric dealerships).

$2 per consumer

Would you pay $2 per consumer for them to participate in a social activity with the dealership? I would bet many of you would say, “In a heartbeat!” because you’re paying much more than that for a current event that has had lukewarm results.
But that’s exactly what Scott Westfall and his staff have been able to do with a new, out-of-the-dealership event called “Two Wheel Tuesday.” Although the event sounds a bit edgy, it’s really old-school thinking: Give riders a place to ride to where they can then socialize in a biker-friendly atmosphere. Since the latter in this case represents a Hooters-like atmosphere, you can just imagine how this concept is playing out. It’s getting quite the crowd.
Westfall, the sales manager at Thompson’s Motorsports in Terre Haute, Ind., saw more than 150 riders attend the first event. Word spread enough so that the second event drew some 200 bikes.
The cost? Well, the restaurant is so happy to get the extra business it doesn’t charge the dealership a cent — and in fact encouraged them to increase the frequency of the event to twice a month. So the only expense is $400 for a band.
That’s $2 per customer.
What’s even better is a significant part of the new crowd is Harley riders, which is terrific as Thompson’s has broadened its preowned Harley inventory.

Pay the toll

Now that you’ve cruised the bold idea highway, it’s time to pay your toll. Actually, in this case, you’ll be “paying it forward” with advice and insights for fellow dealerships. Take just two minutes to answer these two questions:
1) What have you done to overcome economic challenges and find success? (These initiatives could be in any dealership profit center, like preowned, new unit sales, marketing, F&I, service, parts, etc.)
2) What has been the result?
E-mail your responses to me at npascale@affinitygroup.com. We’ll publish some of your “tolls” in the next edition.
And for those who dare to stiff the toll, take heed. We promise to make the California highway department look like a nonprofit agency. psb
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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