Our mission is to continue our legacy of embracing the rebel, non-conformist culture of the Harley-Davidson motorcycling community by providing a premium customer experience, not only through exceptional service, but also through events and activities that enhance a personal relationship with our Milwaukee community and preserve the local pride as the birthplace of Harley-Davidson. From award-winning service to our legendary events, we make sure the pioneering spirit and non-conformist legacy of the Harley-Davidson brand is evident in everything we do. We understand that Harley-Davidson is as much about lifestyle and attitude as it is bikes, parts and accessories. At Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, we believe in working hard and playing hard.
Showroom Design and Layout
Even before you set foot in this 36,000 sq. ft. facility, you’ll find high black beams with Bar & Shield logos cut into them surrounding the front door below a 15-foot Bar & Shield sign that welcomes riders with open arms. Come inside and walk on the world’s largest (to scale) Bar & Shield made of red brick and oak hardwood floors, on top of which we have proudly displayed our motorcycle inventory.
As you look to the east, you can find a replica of the original shed where William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson fabricated the very first motorcycle in 1903, which operates as the general manager’s office. Above the office and circling the upper perimeter of the entire dealership are hand-painted murals against the brick wall depicting historic Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson, and patriotic themes — including a tribute to Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11. The character of each mural reflects a unique style, from an urban graffiti-style portrayal of the word “Milwaukee,” to a modern detailed cartoon of Evel Knievel.
As you’re looking upward, it is hard to miss the bikes displayed on the upper balcony overlooking the showroom, one of which is actually an autographed bike by Evel Knievel that he used for stunts in his glory days. This mezzanine level is called the Roadhouse Lounge — a 3,000 sq. ft. recreational area, fully equipped with Miller and Harley-Davidson neon signs (two very prominent and culturally influential legacies to Milwaukee), retro arcade games, a pool table, shuffleboard, plenty of poker tables, and for the more risqué adult private parties — a vertical pole and hot tub are also available for use! The Roadhouse Lounge is used for many functions, including business meetings, Rider’s Edge classes, and our free Bloody Mary Bar on weekends. As you look across the way, above the Sales Department offices displayed proudly are an old Harley-Davidson manufactured Tomahawk boat and snowmobile.
Right below the Roadhouse, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson has successfully installed the first tattoo shop to exist within a Harley-Davidson dealership. With a colorful mural tagging the wall directly behind a large garage door that once was our delivery bay, it can be noticed from outdoors with a brief glance. Once you walk in, you're greeted with tall ceilings, newly-erected individual rooms, lounge furniture, and a clean minimalist design so as to offer contrast to better showcase the diverse tattoo artists’ work.
In that past year, we have invested a great deal of time and effort in updating our facilities to welcome our fellow dealer principles and their staff at our 2012 World Dealer Meeting Party in August -- all in strategic preparation for the 110th Anniversary. In our city, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson is known as the trendy, youthful Harley dealership, and our interior design certainly physically manifests that depiction.
The surprising combination of urban rebel expression, historic remembrance, and industrial warehouse design creates an overwhelmingly edgy and emotional atmosphere. Overall, the look of the interior of the only dealership to call Milwaukee home is that of an eclectic celebration that exudes local and national pride and a sense of connection to Harley-Davidson as not only a brand, but a cultural revolution that stands for overcoming adversity and non-conformism.
During the last year we have put a ton of energy into the fixed operations of our business, with a special emphasis on Service. Service generates an 80 percent gross margin which is great, but perhaps more importantly, it is the best spot inside a dealership to develop customers for life. In spring, in anticipation of an increase in bike sales, we added three new Techs, effectively doubling our tech count, and increased our staff of Service Advisers. These changes added a significant amount of capacity which our customers immediately consumed. It became clear that although we had acted aggressively to provide more capacity, it was not nearly enough. Working in conjunction with MMI in Phoenix, we visited the campus in fall, interviewed their top candidates for two days, and hired five of their best and brightest.
As part of their orientation, our new techs work directly with our Service Manager, Jay, who is himself a Master of Technology. This way, he has an opportunity to teach them the tribal knowledge that is necessary to know in a dealership, who to ask for technical help, or what do we do when we run into difficult-to-diagnose concerns, as well as give them the benefit of his real-world experience. This is a combination that we feel best prepares Techs new to the industry to be fully engaged, productive, long-term members of our team. Additionally, it is something that few in the industry offer, making us a “best pick” among graduates seeking careers in our industry.
The physical space has undergone dramatic changes, too. The Service Write-Up area was moved inside of the showroom for a more retail-like experience. It was much easier to talk to customers about their wants and needs without the noise and distraction of the Service Department, and it allows us to use the motorcycles on the show floor as visual examples of what can be done to their bikes. We tore down walls to increase the efficiency of the department, allowing techs to drive through rather than have to turn the bikes around in a limited space to get out. We have constructed three additional work stalls to provide the additional space needed. The wash stall was doubled in size to allow the washing of two bikes at one time, and we put in a water softener and reverse osmosis generator to provide spot-free rinses.
One of our best initiatives this year was the implementation of a custom design center inside of the dealership. We added the physical area as part of our remodel, but the process of using the customer path inside the dealership gets the majority of the credit for the results. We were able to increase bike customization by 340 percent this year which lead to a dramatic increase in sales for both parts and labor through the Service Department. We believe that the the design center also plays a pivotal role in getting our customers their first real Service interaction, a fulfilling experience that makes them feel more comfortable coming in for their first maintenance.
The last of our improvements was to attack winter storage. Milwaukee has very seasonal weather, with October through March being inclement. By storing bikes for our customers, we are able to significantly increase the winter work for our techs. We have forecasted an increase to over 400 storage bikes this year, and an doubling of dollars sold per bike.
Training and Employee Motivation Practices
We recognize that our employees are our key to success as Milwaukee Harley-Davidson’s representatives. In today’s globalized Information Age, consumers are very savvy, which necessitates our employees to be experts in their fields. All of Milwaukee H-D employees are enrolled in Harley-Davidson University. They stay current by taking both online and in-residence classes. All of the dealership’s technicians are enrolled in H-D’s Technician Recognition and maintain currency with all available PHD courses. Additionally, seminars are held at the dealership that are taught by factory representatives, with location giving us a competitive edge in this respect.
Beyond that, in the past year we as a small business have made a cultural shift to consolidate our workforce by cross-training to increase our bench strength simultaneously. Daily management huddles and constant, casual employee feedback refine daily operations and behavior, with a concentration on positive reinforcement. There are 1,000 ways to do something wrong, but only one way to do it right. Without positive direction and constructive instruction, we couldn't expect someone to learn our expectations and standards. Taking these steps from an encouraging angle allow for organic employee development, which translates naturally to overall performance.
Commitment to Customer Service
I like to explain our relationship with our customers as being like a duck on the water. From the surface it appears to be floating gently, effortlessly around, but underneath it’s kicking like hell to get where it wants to go.
The part that our customers see on the surface is who we are: friendly, bright, engaged enthusiasts, enjoying your experience alongside you. Much of our customer service philosophy is based in the service industry. Our dealer owner, Chaz, owns several bar/restaurants, and the way we treat customers is based largely on that industry. We feel like customers are truly guests here. We want to greet them immediately, actively listen to them, and the treat them with the same consideration that we would use to treat family and friends. Their concerns are ours. They are super easy to solve -- what would I want someone to do for me in this situation? Just do that.
Underneath the surface, we are fueled by standard operating procedures, customer service role-playing, and process. The friendly part is easy, because it is who we are, and the process part makes sure that you receive the same consistency of performance here every time.
This is achieved in many ways from the first greeting as the customer enters the dealership to the personal invitation to join us on our monthly New Owners Ride for a free gourmet meal and good company at one of the dealership owner’s historic taverns. Our goal is make every customer a “Customer for Life." We want them to come back again and again along with their friends and family.
We sell a “lifestyle," not just motorcycles, parts, and apparel. We hold many events for our customers, ranging from rides and rallies to “MMA Fight Nights." We sponsor a large Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) chapter. We hold our chapter meetings at the dealership and have constructed a large outside recreation area dedicated to our H.O.G. chapter. We continually reach out to our customers and communicate with them using e-blasts, e-mails, and Facebook.
The dealership features a Roadhouse Lounge in the large mezzanine area above the sales floor. All sorts of free entertainment is available: multiple big screen TVs, pool, foosball, shuffleboard, video games, etc. It is a home away from home for many of our customers. In short, we stay involved with our customers and offer a complete experience for all of our customers whether they are new to motorcycling or a seasoned veteran.
Involvement in the Community
The local community understandably has a strong sense of connection with Milwaukee Harley-Davidson due to the fact that the citizens of Milwaukee appreciate the brand as a part of our local culture, not to mention the economic benefit the dealerships, tourism, and factory bring.
However, our philosophy on community involvement is what sets us apart from other area dealers. We strive to be more of a clubhouse than a dealership in the regard that we host huge events, lifestyle-enriching activities, informative classes, and bad-ass parties that we enjoy as much as our guests do. These events always benefit a local charity, ranging from blood drives, Toys for Tots, Hunger Task Force, to funding local children’s education programs.
We recognize that each of us here at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson is as much a customer of the brand as the people we serve, and we demonstrate that by mingling with our guests as their peers during dynamic social events that reach many different interests and demographics—Harley Owners or not. We have the infrastructure to throw the best parties with features like our huge outdoor stage, a burnout pit, and even a mud-wrestling pit! As the owner, Chaz Hastings, likes to say: "It's a three-acre grown-up playground."
However, we make sure cater to everyone. Our list of “Upcoming Events” is constantly being updated to include the wide assortment of parties, like an underground art show, fashion shows, charity rides, wing and chili cook-offs, and much more.
Furthermore, we create relationships with other local businesses to allow us to build upon all aspects of the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson “lifestyle,” and widen our target audience. Our philosophy of business partnership marketing helps us reach a broader spectrum of folks and provide them with a more well-rounded experience rather than trying to do everything ourselves. We frequently sponsor smaller group outings to other businesses, doing an array of activities including kayak trips down the Milwaukee River, tours of many area breweries, partnering with a college bar for the Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan, or even learning how to roll your own sushi! This gives our associates the opportunity to build relationships outside of the dealership and expose future guests to the brand. Our events range from family-friendly to strictly adult-themed, and everything in between, because “we believe in keeping an open mind and a full tank of gas,” which means we welcome all.
Because of our ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with those in the community, we have a network of partnerships that allows us to go above and beyond when contributing to our community.