Employees Go Outside the Dealership Box To Extend Reach


Hi Mountain Recreation serves the Montana market by getting out into it

Do employees provide better customer service if they are passionate enthusiasts themselves? Managers at Billings, Mont. Hi Mountain Recreation seem to think so. Almost to the individual, everyone at Hi Mountain rides something. From owner Barry Usher to GM Chuck South to the rank-and-file workers, this dealership is full of people who get their kicks on motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and snowmobiles.

At Hi Mountain it's sell what you ride, and ride what you sell. And given that Usher also owns a nearby Harley and Buell dealership, there's as much street riding as there is dirt carving. This personal knowledge of the powersports machine enables Hi Mountain's sales staff to more easily tailor a customer's needs and desires to the make and model; but more importantly, it allows the sales team to "sell themselves." Customer service follows naturally.

Even if a Hi Mountain employee can't find the cash to buy a vehicle, a rental program is available. "We have a lease program for our employees for snowmobiles," says GM South. "We lease it to them for the season for $1,000." As a result, the employees get to ride the newest machines every year. "Our market is all mountain riding," South adds. "It's important that our people are on the newest machines, because they're ambassadors for the dealership up on the mountain."


Talk with owner Barry Usher and the subject of customer service comes up — repeatedly. In fact, it's like a mantra. "I think customer service in this country has gone downhill," Usher says. "The Internet has diluted [the] value with products. You can buy anything online cheaper. But there is value in customer service and friendliness."

At Hi Mountain, the service technicians are always available to talk with customers. Everyone who walks in the front door is greeted within five seconds. Phones are answered within three rings, and if the employee isn't available to take the call, the caller is sent directly to voicemail or a message is taken. No one gets put on hold, according to Usher.

Hi Mountain also has a customer satisfaction liaison who helps handle problems and completes follow-up calls for the service department. Making sure a customer is happy when he walks out the door is imperative, because a problem that's left unresolved will only fester. "When you do have a problem, you take care of it immediately," Usher says.

The store's sales management software system is set up to recognize when a customer spends a certain minimum amount on general merchandise. The system tags the buyer record and alerts an employee to send the buyer a handwritten thank you card. In some cases, employees may send a thank you card to a visitor who didn't buy anything, but just stopped by to check out the dealership. Why the fuss? Usher recalls one customer who had been shopping the area dealerships and came by Hi Mountain to look at a specific unit. The staff didn't know it, but this customer was leaning toward making the vehicle purchase at another dealership due to price. But the Hi Mountain sales person sent the man a handwritten thank you note for coming in. Guess what — the customer came back to Hi Mountain and bought the vehicle, solely because of the thank you note he had received.

Providing great customer service means having inventory on hand when the customer wants to buy it. Usher relies on sales software to monitor inventory levels, and then taps his employees' "inside knowledge" on the trends in riding gear and accessories. That's another reason to employ enthusiasts, he notes.

Being enthusiasts is one of the best ways employees can stay current on trends, for they're out talking to customers about what they want and like. In fact, when Hi Mountain was considering carrying sportbike gear, it created a customer focus group to go through the various distributor catalogs and make wish lists.

"My staff at Hi Mountain, their heart and soul is in it," Usher says. "I've got employees who ride motorcycles. I've got another guy who races dirtbikes. We all 'Sea Doo' when we can. And nine times out of 10 the staff on Sunday will go ATV-ing with customers. On Monday, they'll go on a motorcycle ride."