Improve the Boat Ownership Experience

While at one time “satisfactory” service levels were considered good enough for creating customer retention and building brand loyalty, it’s not like that anymore! With the rise in consumer awareness and accessible DIY product research, today’s dealers are faced with meeting a much more demanding customer. Combine this hyper-informed consumer — one who requires an extraordinary experience to be part of their buying and ownership journey — with global health concerns, inflation, workforce shortages, product delays and lack of trust, and it’s no wonder why building allegiance in your brand has become more difficult than ever.

The challenges of today’s market place can leave you and your team feeling over-burdened, under-appreciated and even confused over how you could better meet consumers’ rising expectations. But don’t panic. The MRAA, along with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and Discover Boating, recently completed a study on “Enhancing the Boat Ownership Experience.” The results of this comprehensive study, as outlined by our research partner, Left Brain Marketing, produced real-world examples, defined by real customers, and the path they take to buy boats, which you can see from the highest level in the chart above.

This content outlined on this page includes tips, tools and expert-driven tactics to coincide with each step noted in the customer journey image to the right. It’s important to remember that you need to create your own pathway to success when it comes to building a better customer experience. The journey we use as our guide provides you a framework to base your customer experience decisions on, and the resources below will help your team capture and retain customers. The customer experience you provide is defined by every touchpoint your business has with a customer! This guide will help you refine it.

Research has revealed that it is critical to understand and address each identified step in the customer’s journey to boat ownership. It’s necessary for enhancing customer satisfaction and for boater retention. The “Enhancing the Boat Ownership Experience” survey showcases real-world examples — defined by actual customers — and the proven steps that they take to purchase boats. That is why it’s imperative to learn, adjust and grow by implementing training in order to create your own pathway to success and build a better customer experience for them! 

VLOG: Tips for Improving Your Customer Experience with Liz Keener
In order to help your team exceed customer expectations on a daily basis, you need to have the proper systems and processes in place. Here are few tips to improve your approach to CX from MRAA Certification Manager Liz Keener.

MRAA Ask the Expert WEBINAR with Jerry Mona, Left Brain Marketing (FREE) 
In the recent industry study, “Enhancing the Boat Ownership Experience,” conducted by Jerry Mona of Left Brain Marketing on behalf of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the MRAA and Discover Boating, we learned why boaters buy and their shopping experiences throughout their entire ownership journey. Join us at 11 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 22, for an MRAA Ask the Expert Webinar with Mona. He will provide insights to adjust your focus, and enrich your CX. He’ll also answer questions pertaining to customer engagement at both your dealership and with boating. MRAA Ask the Expert Webinar is powered by BoatyardRegister Here.

Trade Only Column by Matt Gruhn: Mind the Gap (FREE) 
A recent boat ownership study — funded by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Discover Boating and the MRAA — showed that a vast majority of first-time and repeat boat buyers intend to remain in boating. While this is wonderful news, it also contradicts reality in that we know around 40 percent of FTBB leave boating, sell their vessel and don’t replace it within the first five years of their initial purchase. Matt Gruhn explores this gap: The gap between intention and reality .

BLOG: Improving the Customer Experience through Employee Satisfaction (FREE)
I propose that employee satisfaction is the most important factor leading to customer satisfaction and how MICD helps dealers start with improving the employee experience.By MRAA Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann

BLOG: Future Boaters are Different by Ellen Bradley, NMMA (FREE) 
It’s wonderful to know the demographics of your boating audience and future boaters, but it’s also vastly important to understand the feelings, behaviors and mindset of boaters, especially post-pandemic. This Soundings Trade Only article from Ellen Bradley, Chief Brand Officer, NMMA, details the what makes future boaters different and explores the three key segments identified by Discover Boating.

MRAA Guide: ‘Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating’ (BRONZE +) 
Insights and resources to help your team deliver world-class customer experiences. “Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating” is a step-by-step guide (FREE download for MRAA members) to helping you ensure the boat ownership experience exceeds expectations, creating an environment where your customers develop “two-foot-itis” and will be back in to trade up on their boats. 

Consumers are savvy and comfortable with doing much of their research online to find boats near them. It’s important to know that they are seeking reliable information from your site, but also platforms and other resources that they can trust in order to help them make a purchasing decision. 

  • MRAA Strategic Partner Boats Group offers its Boat Trader as an avenue for dealers to enhance their brand, marketing and boat sales leads by converting more boat shoppers into boat owners (and happy customers).
  • Boatline, an MRAA Education Champion, powered by Trader Interactive, is an online recreation and commercial vehicle marketplace site that provides marine dealers with tools for advertising their location and inventory to offer a high-quality shopping experience and lead generation. 
  •, an MRAA Platinum Partner, helps buyers identify the right type of boat for them. Working closely with buyers and sellers, focuses on a great customer experience for those listing boats and those buying boats.
  • Boatyard is designed to connect its customers with preferred marinas, dealers and marine pros to find the proper service and items needed for their boat. Dealerships can also take advantage of Boatyard for business and process support.
  • MRAA Partner Member Digital Power Solutions offers its TRADE CYCLE resource for dealers is a value-your-trade website tool giving customers an instant appraisal of their Boat, while also providing dealerships with valuable shopper information.
Discover Boating Dealer Finder Tool

Discover Boating Dealer Finder Tool «
Discover Boating (powered by NMMA and MRAA) recently added a convenient new feature called the Dealer Finder Tool to help site visitors search for — and connect with — nearly 3,600 new boat dealers across the country. Site visitors can search for dealers and use the mapping functionality to quickly locate local dealers through zip code or city search, as well as a one-touch option to visit a dealer’s website or call the dealer directly. Click here to visit the new Dealer Finder tool on

BLOG: How to Increase Customer Engagement by Improving Your Website
Jason Riley, Rollick Director of Marketing, in his blog says “As a boat dealer, your online presence and capacity to deliver a seamless digital retailing experience online are your two most powerful tools to edge ahead of the competition.”

Discover Boating Boat Selector Tool   
Embed Discover Boating’s interactive boat-buying resource, the Boat Selector Tool, on your website to help consumers find a boat that’s right just for them and their family.  

Selling Boats on eBay and Craigslist (SILVER +)
Are you missing the boat by not listing your inventory on eBay, Craigslist and other 3rd party channels? Learn just how and why you should be taking advantage of listing your new and used boats and engines on third party listing services. ARI can help you improve in this area of your business with simple-but-effective tactics.


Your dealership can enhance its approach to customer experience by focusing on how you interact with every customer at every possible touchpoint. It’s about shifting your mindset and developing a culture the addresses each customer touchpoint as an opportunity to connect, and positively influence their emotions and impressions of your team, your store and your brand. With full buy in from your staff and a diligent plan and process in place, you will enhance your customer service, but more importantly, forever alter the customer experience.

We’ve listed a variety of resources, tools and tactics to help you modify and invest in CX.

Ask the Expert Webinar: Using Digital to Personalize the Customer Experience (SILVER +)

Influenced by high levels of personalization from large and well-known companies such as Amazon and Disney, today’s boat shoppers have equally high expectations when shopping for their next boat. Additionally, today’s buyer is expecting superior personalization in that shopping experience. How do we begin to compete? And how do we compete without breaking the bank? Rich DeLancey recaps his Dealer Week session to offer some suggestions that can help you implement new strategies to help you personalize the customer experience. 

MRAA’s Training ‘N’ Tactics Explores Customer Experience with Theresa Syer (SILVER +)

TNT’s course of the month for MRAA’s focus on the Customer Experience features Syer Hospitality’s Theresa Syer’s course ” Supercharge Your Customer Experience Workshop,” Hosted by MRAA Content Manager Jerrod Kelley, you’ll learn from Syer the 7 Key Emotional Motivators that can shift the tide emotionally for customers. She’ll also show you how to develop your own Key Emotional Drivers that will affect those Emotional Motivators and keep customers coming to you, working with you and ultimately buying from you.

We know how difficult it is for you to come up with a training plan for your team. We also know how difficult it can be to sift through more than 200 courses in MRAA’s catalog to find the one that would be best for you at this moment.  That’s why MRAA created Training ‘N Tactics, or TNT, a monthly educational program  for our Silver and Gold Members. On the first business day of each month, MRAA introduced a moderated version of the most timely and relevant course that can impact your business. The opportunity for you is to use that course to educate your team. Watch it and discuss it as a group; or assign it out, watch it separately, and then gather to discuss what was learned and what you can improve upon.

Become a Trusted Dealership in the Eyes of Today’s Customer, with Marcus Sheridan (GOLD)

Become a trusted dealership

Trust is the building block of all business. It also plays a huge role in the consumers’ expectations and decision-making process. So, how do you become a trusted voice and inspire you customers to become loyal fans? Exploring buyer psychology, Marcus Sheridan lays out “The 5 Anchors of Trust in the Digital Age.” Every department in your dealership can benefit from these best practices. The end game is to improve marketing engagement and sales, while also boosting your customer retention and their overall experience with your brand. This course was a 2021 Quarter 2 Continuous Certification course.

Guide to Defining the Customer Experience (BRONZE +)

Powered by Rollick, this MRAA Guide to Defining the Customer Experience provides you an in-depth look at the ingredients necessary for both pre- and post-sale success. Along with defining and comparing customer service and customer experience, this go-to resource can help you improve your CSI scores and establish processes to create loyal customers. 

CSI Outside the Box (SILVER +) 
In CSI Outside the Box — a sister course to the above CX guide — speaker Steve Pizzolato provides insights into consumer satisfaction during the consideration phase, the initial purchase phase and the post-purchase phase.

At this point in the process, consumers are seeking brands and boats that they can trust. This is big purchasing decision and they don’t want to be slighted in the least or run into disappointment from an unfavorable product or poor example of customer experience. In fact, the Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program supplies your team with a step-by-step guide to improving process and becoming the very best the industry has to offer. For you it’s about sharpening your image, your brand and your approach to find more success and to connect more with customers. Not only to make more sales, but to retain the customers you have and add more because of your legacy, trustworthiness and how you approach to CX. The MRAA Certified Pre-Owned Boat Program is one such area where you can add confidence for your team and your customers, while also improve the boat ownership experience for customers. 

MRAA Certified Pre-Owned Boat Program (ALL)  
An amazing 80 percent of first-time boat buyers purchase pre-owned vessels. These buyers don’t have a lot of experience with boats or how to operate them, so they value a program like CPO that helps them make a better-informed purchasing decision. By participating in the MRAA CPO program — backed by Titan Certified’s industry-leading fluid testing and guarantee and the peace of mind provided by Boat History Report — you’re adding to their overall experience and providing them with confidence that you have done everything possible to provide them with a safe, reliable boat.

How to Build a Brand Everyone Wants to Connect to (SILVER +) 
Fortunately for marine retailers, there will never be a shortage of a human’s desire to connect. Retail data clearly shows that strong brands perform disproportionately better in tough times. This is great news for savvy dealers and not-so-great news for those who continue to operate like they always have. this course will teach you how to implement the same concepts and tactics that retail guru Paul J. Daly has taught and helped deploy in both small and large dealers across the U.S. and abroad.

IBEX 365 EDUCATION WEBINAR: Deliver Better Product and Customer Experiences through CSI
Register for the IBEX 365 Education Webinar “Deliver Better Product and Customer Experiences through CSI” with speaker Jeff Coffman, Sr. Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at AVALA, Inc., a Rollick Company. Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) programs offer a wealth of insight into consumer experiences with brands, dealers and products. Rollick, Inc., administrator of the NMMA CSI program and MRAA Education Champion, will highlight ways manufacturers and dealers can implement satisfaction measurement programs and leverage data designed to build better products and deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

Your customers want to know they are getting the best possible price from you so they can feel more confident in their purchasing decision. This also relates to them satisfying an emotion driver and because buying a boat is a big investment for them. You have a chance to be a hero in their eyes and help them fulfill their dream of boat ownership. Just remember their journey isn’t over once they can feel comfortable with the price they are getting. Those steps come next, but it’s critical here to know you can help them know what they can afford to buy or not buy. 

BLOG: Improve Customer Experience with This Consumer Financing Strategy (FREE)

“How much of a boat can I afford to purchase?” Prospective boat buyers often have this question in mind, or worse yet, they learn that the boat of their dreams is out of their price range. You have a chance to be a hero to your customers by preventing them from guessing and, due to frustration, keep them from abandoning the boat shopping experience altogether. By using online pre-qualification programs to your advantage to help your customer avoid this question. By MRAA Vice President of Education Liz Walz

Discover Boating Boat Loan Calculator (FREE)
Discover Boating researched and evaluated which online resources consumers consult before making a purchase. This included wondering how much of a loan they could get to purchase the boat of their dreams. You can embed this free resource on your site to assist customers in figuring a monthly payment based upon the loan amount.

The day they secure the boat of their dreams is on par with their first automobile or house purchase. There is a lot of emotion tied to this aspect of the journey as it’s filled with both a reward, learning that they have “secured the boat,” and also with anticipation for the next step in their journey that is to come. That is to take possession of their very own vessel. 

Discover Boating: First Time Buyer’s Journey to Purchase (FREE) 
Discover Boating outlines the first time boat buyers’ (FTBB) journey to ownership, and the fives stages of how they buy. They move through a process that includes five stages that display highly emotional states, from excitement to disappoint and everything in between. The stages are: Develop, Desire, Dream, Decide and Do. 

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This portion of our Improve the Boat Ownership Experience challenges you to explore and implement tactics and strategies for improving the customer experience once they take possession of the boat. We’ve compiled resources and courses to help guide your team in your effort to improve your CX efforts regarding post-sale communication, follow-up and retention efforts.

BLOG: Enhancing the Dealer Purchase Experience (FREE)

Left Brain Marketing’s Jerry Mona explores the drivers of satisfaction with the dealer purchase experience. The analysis was based on a sample of 493 boaters who purchased from a dealer from 2019 to 2021.

Improve Revenue, Efficiency, and CSI with an Active Delivery Process (SILVER +)  If your dealership places an emphasis on Service Department excellence, you’ve probably put some thought into the process you use to return or “deliver” the boat to the customer following service. But are you taking full advantage of this time with the customer to boost loyalty and profitability? That’s what an “Active Delivery Process” aims to achieve. During this session, you’ll learn the 6 steps to an Active Delivery, the tools you’ll need to implement it, and how you can use it to drive up customer satisfaction, revenue and efficiency.

Ask the Expert Webinar (Recording): How to Keep Your Customers Boating (and Buying) with Liz Keener (SILVER +)

Join MRAA’s Liz Walz, Cecelia Pallotto and Liz Keener as they dive into strategies and tactics dealers can use to help keep their customers boating. 

Ask the Expert Webinar (Recording): A New Tool for Your Customer Follow Up with Bob McCann (SILVER +)
Post-sale follow-up is especially important to dealers’ ability to care for customers – a high percentage of which are first-time boat owners – and retain them. That’s why MRAA has partnered with CSI Inc. to launch a Virtual Business Development Center. During this special edition of our Ask the Expert Webinar Series, Liz Walz and Cecelia Pallotto will interview sales guru and MRAA Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann about this new approach to customer follow-up and take your questions.

Turn Upset Customers into Loyal Ones with Valerie Ziebron (SILVER +)

Did you know that one incident can actually put your dealership’s reputation — you know, the one that you and your team have worked so hard to build — on the line? That’s why it’s vitally important for you to assess the way you handle upset customers. This course will show you positive conflict resolution techniques that you can use to improve your customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How to Navigate Difficult Customer Conversations with John Spence (SILVER +)

It’s hard to have happy customers all the time! But it’s   especially difficult when faced with challenging market conditions, supply chain disruptions, an overworked staff, economic factors and more. In this session, This MRAA course with John Spence will share with you several simple but powerful techniques for dealing effectively with upset, frustrated or angry customers.

3 Ways to Earn Your Service Customer’s Trust, with Chris Collins (SILVER +)

The key to the success of any business is its employees’ ability to earn the trust of the people you want to buy from you. That’s especially true in dealership service departments. During this session, dealership service advisor turned service training guru Chris Collins is going to show your service team how to put the customer relationship first, digging into three things that your service manager, service advisor and technicians can do differently to earn the trust of today’s customers, which will lead to more revenue and a bigger bottom line in the year ahead and a better work environment.

Text Me! Improve Customer Communication and Staff Efficiency in Parts & Service, with Jeremy DeFelice (SILVER +)

Put simply, lack of communication is the root cause of a poor customer experience in many Parts and Service departments. Have you ever heard a customer say, “Nobody ever called me,” or an employee share that they didn’t have time, then it’s time to improve your communication. While the demand for boats has grown over the last two years, the same cannot be said for staffing levels. In fact, many dealership workers have hit the rev limiter, and are filled with anxiety and stress.

While you could maintain you current situation, there’s a simple method to improve customer communication that 98% of Americans already uses. Fixed operations expert Jeremy DeFelice of Garage Composites shares his expertise and reasoning for using text messaging to improve communication.


Discover Boating’s 5-Part Video Series ‘Boating Basics: Pro Tips’ powered by Progressive® (FREE) 
Discover Boating can be your go-to outlet for using a variety of boating resources to share with first-time boat buyers and seasoned boaters alike. This includes boating safety content, as well as tips for operation and ownership. Dealers are encouraged to share this informative five-part digital video series ‘Boating Basics: Pro Tips,’ powered by Progressive®, featuring topics such as how to launch a boat, driving and docking tips and understanding the rules of the water:

     • Episode 1 – Boat Checklist: 8 Things to Bring Onboard
     • Episode 2 – Launching a Boat: 9 Steps for Success
     • Episode 3 – Docking a Boat: 6 Steps for Beginners
     • Episode 4 – Driving a Boat: 6 Tips for Operating with Confidence
     • Episode 5 – 5 Essential Rules of the Water

Get Started Boating by RBFF

This page on the RBFF site is loaded with information about boat types, safety tips, registration tools, and resources for operational, safety and ownership.

Boating Safety by BoatUS

You can find boating safety and clean water resources from BoatUS Foundation, which promotes safe, clean and responsible boating. This educational outreach speaks directly to boaters and helps educate them on proper operation, etiquette and much more.

Additional Resources for Certified Dealers

Post Sales Process Map (CERTIFIED)

Process maps keep our business tasks on track, assuring that, if followed, no step will be missed. Post-Sale Follow-Up is one of those key areas where a process map can help immensely. a Post-Sale Follow-Up process map, you can put in place schedules, checks and balances to make sure each customer gets the same follow-up, from handwritten cards to a five-day “thank you” call and more. MRAA’s Certification Team has developed an example Post-Sale Follow-Up process map.

Post-sale Phone Script

If you have a powerful script as part of your post-sale follow-up process, your team will know what to say and how to say it, increasing your chances of a totally successful phone conversation. In fact, a well-tuned script can reduce mental hiccups that can result in wasted time and missed opportunities.

Post-sale Text/Email Template

The MRAA Certification team has created sample text and email templates that can assist your team in how it approached post-sale follow-up connections with customers. 

Employee Satisfaction Survey Process

When it comes to hiring, a culture where employees can be confident they have a voice and the ability to contribute to improvement and growth is a competitive advantage. Certified Dealers   build and maintain this culture through an annual Employee Satisfaction Survey Process, facilitated by MRAA to ensure anonymity and encourage accountability. Want to learn more? Contact  Bob or Certification Manager,  Liz Keener.

Take Your Employee Satisfaction to the Next Level

The shortage of skilled workers can make it a challenge to attract and hold onto the right employees, who are fired up to provide the customer experience you want and are expected to deliver. In this course, you’ll learn the importance of employee satisfaction surveys when it comes to hiring and retaining the best team for your business — and how to use them to make real change that benefits your culture and your bottom line.

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Benefits for All MRAA Members

Dealer Week Training and Educational Opportunity 
If you want to stay on top of all of the most up-to-date trends and issues, as well as the strategies, tactics and best practices that can help you tackle them, then you need to attend MRAA’s Dealer Week. Held each December, Dealer Week brings together the leading experts, the leading dealers and the leading manufacturers and suppliers for three days of collaborative learning and connectivity. MRAA Members Bonus: Save $200 per person off of registration.

Discounts on Dealership Certification
For the most comprehensive support in helping you strengthen your foundation, sharpen your operations and take the best care of your customers and employees, Dealership Certification brings together the best of all MRAA programs and services into one great program. Use Certification, its resources and its consultants to build bulletproof systems and processes that will help you deliver world class-level customer experience.