Offer Custom Seats for Butt-Kickin' Profits

admin

You sell everything a customer needs, but how about offering some things that customers want?

Service seats custom money profit

THERE ARE LOTS OF PARTS you can sell in the service department. Gaskets, tires, oil, batteries — these fulfill customers' needs but provide them with little enjoyment in the purchase experience. Customers would rather spend their money on something that makes their bikes run better, look cooler or make them more comfortable.

With these things in mind, during this riding season I suggest you promote easy-to-install accessories that your customers want and which don't clog up your service schedule. One accessory group that fits this nicely? Custom seats.

From the customer's perspective, a custom seat offers several benefits:

  • A low-profile custom seat lowers the rider in the saddle, making it easier to straddle the bike flat-footed. It also makes the bike feel less top-heavy.
  • A custom seat with a narrow nose allows the rider to straddle the bike more straight-legged for greater confidence at the stoplight.
  • A wider seat supports the rider's/passenger's weight over a broader area, making longer rides more comfortable.
  • Seats like the ones in Harley-Davidson's Reach collection move the rider closer to the handlebars for greater confidence of control.
  • Seats with increased foam thickness raise long-legged riders in the saddle, which reduces cramping from underextension.

For style, a custom seat can turn a plain-Jane stocker into a sporty or nostalgic-looking showpiece. That's because the custom seat creates a big visual footprint — second only to custom paint. The cool thing is, custom seats are the easiest to install and the least expensive to buy.

Custom seats come in many materials, textures and colors, from manmade materials that look new for a really long time with little to no maintenance to a multitude of organics, like cowhide and exotic leathers.

Your customers' options are limited only by their imaginations. Some companies even build seats to suit individual preferences for fitment, design, material and/or color. In fact, Harley-Davidson's Custom Seat Program does just that: A customer can design a custom seat online and take delivery at a local dealership. (Check it out at www.harley-davidson.com/customseat)

Now that we've covered the customer's perspective, let's talk about the three biggest benefits selling and installing custom seats offer you, the dealer.

  • The easy money is in the custom seat sale because the dollars earned selling one seat easily surpasses the sale of several service parts. And, because most custom seats carry an excellent profit margin, your parts-to-labor ratio can rise quickly.
  • Almost any employee can learn to install a custom seat, which means the seat sale won't slow down a service department that's in the middle of its spring rush.
  • It's pretty easy to sell a custom seat, and it's not uncommon for a rider to own three seats for one bike: the OEM one, the one for longer rides and the one for style.

SELLING TIPS

  • Keep seats in stock and on display. Sure, you could order from a catalog if a customer shows interest, but you may lose up to 50 percent of potential seat sales since most customers buy on impulse.
  • Sell the experience. For trusted customers, install custom seats on their bikes and then let them go for a ride.
  • Create attention-getting merchandising displays, and remember: location, location, location.
  • Install custom seats on new, pre-owned, demo and rental bikes so customers can experience what the seat can do for them visually and comfort-wise. Create signage that identifies the custom seat installation.
  • Display seats horizontally at eye-level so customers can visualize how the seat would look on their bikes.
  • Display custom seats in the service write-up area with signage that reads "Free installation with service." Everybody likes free stuff, and you should be willing to install a seat for zero labor when it earns you $60 to $100 in profit.
  • Earmark catalogs to pages that show seats on vehicles so customers can see what the custom seats look like on bikes similar to theirs.
  • Ask customers smart questions during vehicle check-in so you can uncover customer wants and needs. This is especially important during the first service — after the customer has just put 1,000 miles on his or her new bike. That's often when they realize their desire for a custom seat. Good questions to ask: Are you and your passenger 100 percent comfortable on longer rides? Are there any controls that feel too close or too far away? Do you ride with a passenger more than a third of the time? What thoughts did you have for enhancing the looks of your bike?
  • Finally, visually inspect how the customer fits on the bike when sitting on it. Look for over- and underextension in the arms or legs.

Now you have to make a decision: Do you want to satisfy your customer's desire to accessorize, or simply sell gaskets and tires? "Saddle-up and sell" will put you on the happy trail to butt-kickin' profits.

How to Select a Custom Seat Supplier

There are a number of seat suppliers out there, so you should carefully choose which brands are right for your dealership. Custom seats fall into two categories: hand-built one-offs and off-the-shelf production varieties. Both sport unique features not found in the OEM seat, but more than 90 percent of customers favor off-the-shelf custom seats because they're competitively priced and readily available. Here are some guidelines from Tim Seymour, president of Saddlemen Seats, to help you select an off-the-shelf custom seat supplier. — Dave Koshollek

  • Know the product. Some companies are known for hard seats, and some produce a small range of product. Current styling trends favor a low, narrow seat, but comfort dictates seating platforms that are wider and thicker.
  • Look for suppliers with a broad range of product. This reduces ordering complexity and reduces customer confusion when too many options are presented.

  • Check supplier inventory. Customers are impulse-buyers; both the shop and the supplier must be able to fulfill an order with little delay.
  • Verify product warranty. Do business with suppliers that have a solid product warranty that's supported without resistance.
  • Know the reputation of the particular seat manufacturer. While most companies go out of their way to provide good customer service, some may be slow to respond.

In the end, supplier selection requires you to do your homework. When at trade shows like Dealer Expo, ask other dealers which seat supplier they use, but make sure to visit all seat supplier booths. At consumer shows and rallies, inspect bikes to learn which aftermarket seats are common. Finally, use the Internet to research supplier websites and read customer reviews.