Dealer-conducted service seminars incorporate education and promotion


Dealer-conducted seminars run the risk of devolving into an infomercial, but Dave Atkinson knows how to skirt the line between education and blatant self-promotion. The service manager for Mancuso Harley-Davidson in Houston recently spoke in front of about 50 people. “I hadn’t had a seminar in a couple of years,” he says, “and what I decided to do this time was to key in on any new bike owners within the last 17 months because they would be getting their 18-month CSI score sheets. I don’t think they always understand the sheet.”

Atkinson used two computer programs, including LightspeedNXT, to identify the customers to whom to send multiple e-mail invitations. Also invited were people who’d bought a used bike within the past 12 months. As incentives, the store said it would give away gift bags filled with store-branded novelty items and a $50 coupon for any major service. One lucky winner at the end of the night would also receive a nice Mancuso coffee mug containing a $100 coupon.

CSI scores were just one section (the last) of the hour-long seminar, officially called More Than an Oil Change and That Guy Down the Street. The structure of the presentation was as follows, with a Q&A session between each section:

More Than an Oil Change. For about a year now, Harley-Davidson has produced More Than an Oil Change full-color fliers for each of its model families. The fliers show a motorcycle with arrows pointing to areas addressed in a first service or any major service thereafter: fluids, filters, critical fasteners, clutch adjustments, etc. Atkinson placed these fliers into the attendees’ gift bags and asked them to take them out. “We talked about the benefits of using Genuine Harley fluids and gaskets — how doing your services keeps your warranty in full force,” he says. “It’s basically maintaining your investment in your machine.”

That Guy Down the Street. Atkinson then told attendees why they should choose their local Harley dealer over an independent repair shop, listing the following reasons: factory-trained technicians, the latest special equipment (including Harley’s Digital Technician), and the latest information via updates and bulletins. Atkinson also noted that Harley dealerships are less inclined to go out of business. “I gave a couple examples over the years of some shops that had done just that, with customers’ bikes locked inside for weeks,” says Atkinson, who never mentioned Mancuso H-D, just “your local Harley dealer,” nor a specific aftermarket shop, just “that guy.”

At one point, Atkinson asked everyone who had bought a new bike within 60 days to raise their hands. After 10 to 12 people did so, he reminded them of Harley’s policy of warranting any Genuine Harley accessory bought within that period for the rest of the bike’s two-year warranty. Atkinson then invited a store salesman to speak briefly.

Used bike manager’s presentation. The store’s pre-owned specialist also took the podium for about 15 minutes, explaining how service records at a dealership can impact how much money bike owners receive at trade-in.

Benefits of dyno work and performance work. “We talked about the Screamin’ Eagle Race Tuner and its benefits and features on late-model Harley-Davidsons, as well as the diagnostic advantages of a dyno, what it can offer other than tuning,” Atkinson says. “Then I smiled and said, ‘And it’s fun to watch.’” The store’s dyno room has a large viewing window.

CSI scores. Finally, Atkinson talked about the CSI sheets that most of the attendees would be receiving. He prevented the raising of eyebrows by first saying how he was not allowed to “buy you beers, take you on a cruise, or take you out to dinner in an effort to get good scores. But what I can talk about is how important they are for your servicing dealer so they can continue to be a fully functioning dealership at a level that makes it better for everybody, including fixing any mistakes that we do.”

Atkinson ended the seminar with a brief presentation of service care products. A Q&A session lasted 30 to 45 minutes.

Atkinson says the seminar cost the dealership about $400. He now plans to host a seminar every quarter with varying subject matter, with CSI scores being a constant. Even though he plans to add special sales items during seminars, he says he’ll continue to emphasize education over self-promotion. “I think I hit the fine line,” he says. “I wasn’t sure, but then I had so much positive response that I must have done something right. The feedback was awesome and included phone calls, handshakes and e-mails the next day. I got 20 to 25 people respond back, which is better than some of the CSI returns.”

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews June 2011 issue.