Service dept. gets rock star treatment

It’s not uncommon for customers to plan performance or customization upgrades as part of their winter storage programs.

With that in mind, St. Paul Harley-Davidson in Minnesota wanted to find a better way to connect its customers to the service department over the winter. By all accounts, the dealership’s “Backstage Pass to SPHD Service” was a blazing success.

The Backstage Pass included a behind-the-scenes look at the service department. Customers were invited to visit with technicians in the bays, with no set schedule. The dealership’s newly redesigned service department write-up area took center stage, with a much more user-friendly experience easy for consumers to spot.

Customers could ask techs about potential custom projects, or, as was often the case, they could listen in on conversations between other customers and techs before chiming in themselves. In-progress custom jobs were also on display and served as conversation topics, as did showcase machines that had been designed by the store’s sales and P&A staff, then created by the master techs. Roomy service advisor kiosks with pole-mounted, swivel monitors also were a hit.

That’s not all, though. Customers could speak with a host of industry product experts, including Jeff Lemon, Phil Gork and Sam Hacker, service advisors at SPHD; Jeremy Gilbert, sales manager at S&S Cycles; Tim Horvath, technical support specialist at Kuryakyn; Pat Cunningham, service operations area rep for the Motor Company, and Tracy Hilgers, owner and artist of TJ Design. And Rusty Taco was on hand for a free taco giveaway.

In other words, service department manager Brent Godwin was up to his ears in preparing for the event.

St. Paul Harley-Davidson celebrated its service department makeover with a “Backstage Pass to Service” event in January.

“We had been talking for over a year about a way to connect the customer base more closely with our technicians, to give them more 1-on-1 time with them, without impacting the through-put of the shop,” Godwin said. “We were thinking Tech Night, but we had a big remodel to the service write-up area in the front of the house. So let’s combine them all into one big open house, rather than focus on our winter storage customers. Make in inclusive instead of exclusive.”

SPHD’s sister store, Wild Prairie Harley-Davidson, offered a two-hour event for its winter storage customers only, but with the renovation, the St. Paul store needed to up the ante.

“Once we decided to do an open house and have the focus on customer interaction with the service advisors and techs, we decided we had to do it with some panache,” Godwin said. “We decided to pick a few select vendors to share their expertise, and that was a huge draw. Our customers really appreciated them being there to answer their questions.”

The event, held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on a January Saturday, featured a steady flow of customers. And while residual sales were expected to triumph mostly from the day, the service department did chalk up 17 work orders on that day alone.

“Absolutely,” is how Godwin responded when asked if the event was a success. “Especially if you break down the two objectives, from a relationship building standpoint, a huge success. Whether it’s sales, service or just friendship, trust is the first piece of it. Having the customers have the opportunity to talk with the guys and see when I hand the keys to my baby over, this is where it goes. It’s a nice clean professional shop and the guys know what they’re talking about. That was a huge success.”


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