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Delivering a satisfying client experience is one of the most important missions for any business – and also one of the toughest. It’s not enough to just smile and be polite – you have to be proactive, follow up on your promises and do it in a timely manner.
It’s a particularly challenging endeavor for marine dealerships since they must always maintain long-lasting relationships with their customers – or risk losing their business.
Strong’s Marine, a boat and yacht business started by Dave and Dottie Strong in 1965, has managed to keep its customers happy for more than half a century with its six locations across Long Island, New York. Given its massive size and appeal, it’s no wonder then that Strong’s Marine has received tons of accolades, including the seventh spot on Boating Industry’s list of top 100 dealers in the United States.
So, what makes Strong’s Marine so beloved? To learn the answer, we sat down with several key individuals from the dealership, including Paul Silansky, the Director of Strategy & Process, Terry Gorga, the Water Club Concierge, and Laura Thimm, the Sales Coordinator. See what they had to say in our interview below.
What are some of the biggest challenges of managing a dealership like Strong’s Marine?
Paul: “I’d say the biggest challenge is maintaining a consistently high level of client experience, particularly during a period of rapid organic growth among our various lines of business, such as new boat and yacht sales, pre-enjoyed boat and yacht sales, service, dockage, valet, boat rentals and entertainment.
You can’t grow at the expense of your customers. It has to be a balance.”
Speaking of client experience, how do you handle difficult or unhappy customers?
Paul: “We listen to their needs even more closely – because we obviously fell short somewhere. We always work to build a good relationship, to arrive at a mutual understanding and to meet our customers’ expectations.
We think it’s important to create brand advocates in the marketplace whenever, wherever possible. Even if we can’t complete a transaction with a customer, we still want them to consider us in the future.
It’s not a perfect world, so we always strive to be our best with the belief that ‘time on the water enriches lives and brings people closer.’ We are ‘dedicated to fulfilling dreams by creating life-enhancing recreational possibilities, one family at a time.’”
You’ve recently implemented the IDS Rentals and CRM modules – is that correct?
Paul: “Yes. The CRM module is the more recent of the two. Our champions of the Rentals and CRM modules are Terry Gorga and Laura Thimm, respectively.
Terry is our Water Club Concierge, and she’s responsible for keeping all of our clients happy, so the Rentals module is very helpful in that regard. Laura, who is our Sales Coordinator, wanted to improve our sales processes, which is why she was pushing for implementing the IDS CRM.”
What was the implementation process like, particularly when it comes to the CRM?
Laura: “The system was easily configured to meet our needs – especially among the sales professionals – with lead types, lead sources and follow-up schedules all properly set up. The CRM is now nicely integrated to take advantage of all our system data and functionality, including contacts, inventory and accounting.
With the ability to easily identify our sales stages through the system, our sales professionals can maintain the status of their efforts by tracking and managing their activities. The system also enables management reporting, which provides us with more transparency.”
How involved was the IDS team in the implementation process?
Paul: “During the implementations of both the Rentals and CRM modules, the IDS team provided expert support at several levels – we had project management, technical and training support exactly when it was needed.
IDS also helped in the transition of records from an older standalone system, which allowed us to achieve a quicker, cleaner and easier cutover. So, we got great support on both Rentals and CRM!”
What are your thoughts on the IDS Rentals module?
Terry: “We feel that the IDS Rentals program is very helpful.
We are among the first to use it, actually. As early adopters, we worked through some initial issues, but it has since become an effective tool for serving our customers. IDS tech support personnel has been very accommodating to us throughout those early stages, making sure we got the most out of this module.
It’s very user-friendly – and the contracts that are produced look professional and easy to understand. It brought our rental department up to the next level.”
What are some of the challenges associated with running a rental department?
Terry: “Making sure everyone is happy always is very challenging. The rentals module keeps us organized when it comes to our rentals slips. It also keeps our accounting on-point. When we can provide a rental service without any issues, it makes our clients happy, which is our main goal.”
What makes a successful rental department in your opinion?
Terry: “A successful rental department should be able to provide the best rental service to its customers along with professional, friendly communications and timely transactions. Having a great system also helps.”
How does IDS compare to what Strong’s Marine had before?
Paul: “It’s night and day. Our past system for the rental department was a fillable PDF form that did not correspond to our database. We had to manually post everything. And at the end of the season, we had to go through all accounts to fix the contracts that were posted incorrectly. So, the Rentals module is making a huge difference, which his great.
And as we’re starting to use the CRM, I’m sure we’ll have even more successes with our customers in the future.”
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