Motivating the Troops

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About a year ago, some of the folks at Yamaha began thinking of ways to help their dealers help themselves. The market continues to soften, so the timing couldn't have been better.

Yamaha announced several new initiatives for dealers last month at its annual business meeting. Leading the pack was the Pro Yamaha program designed to help dealers improve customer satisfaction and make more money in the process. A related program is the Hot Winter Nights promotion aimed at helping cold weather dealers who suffer a sharp drop in motorcycle sales during the off-season. Also introduced was Yamaha Motor University (YMU).

Dealers can hardly turn down the initiatives — because most are free. Only the Hot Winter Nights promotion has a modest charge, largely for POP and other materials.

Operation Retain

The Pro Yamaha program is based on a simple concept: boost dealer profits by increasing the satisfaction of old and new customers.

"We feel that to deal with the soft market, we have to do the best job we can to help dealers retain their customer base," says Bob Starr, Yamaha corporate communications manager. "To do that, they have to offer the best customer satisfaction in the business."

The Pro Yamaha program has five focus areas: Customer Satisfaction, Ownership Experience, Knowledgeable Staff, Service It Right, and Support the Brand. Dealers can learn more about developing each of these areas through YMU, which will coordinate all the OEM's training efforts.

Dealers earn points for developing their stores in each of the five areas. The points go into a marketing fund that the dealers can use to do everything from adding fixtures to increasing employee training to co-oping promotions. Again, there is no cost for a dealer to participate, and the program is optional.

"The market has turned, and dealers have to focus on keeping the customers they have," says Joe Dagley, Yamaha's dealer development manager. "Consumers want extra service. If they're spending 10, 11, 12 thousand dollars with us, they demand service.

"As the market turns," Dagley continues, "we want [dealers] to be proactive, not reactive, in terms of customer satisfaction. And Pro Yamaha is a way that they can really focus their efforts."

Yamaha reportedly has put quite a bit of effort into the program. "We've done a lot of research and talked with a lot of dealers," Dagley says. "We talked with maybe 60 dealers who have a really strong customer base that is very loyal, and we tried to identify the common elements [for success] so we could apply them to all of our dealers. We're trying to take best practices and apply them to our entire dealer network.

"We found that customer satisfaction is the key," he continues. "Our most successful dealers are the ones that focus on customer satisfaction."

According to Starr, the program was tested in several markets in Southern California and the Northwest.

"We know the program works because we've seen the results in test markets over the last several months," Starr says. "We could quantify the impact, and we could [see] improvements in performance trends ... that exceeded the [test] market."

One dealer we talked with says he likes the Pro Yamaha project but thinks most successful dealers are already doing most of the things the program suggests. "But it keeps us thinking about it, gives us an incentive, and should help the less-sophisticated operators," he says.

"The beauty of the program," Dagley says, "is that it's all-inclusive. Even if a dealer has nine lines, he can still participate. That's why the dealers were so excited about it at the meeting."

Contributing editor Joe Delmont is editor and publisher of The Delmont Report newsletter and B2B website www.powersportsupdate.com. Contact him at joe@powersportsupdate.com.