Good Luck at the Dealership

How to Dial in the People and Processes in Every Department to Help Transform Your Customers’ Experience

By Valerie Ziebron, VRZ Consulting

After a kiss goodbye, my husband said: “Good luck at the dealership” as I walked out the door. 

Those words rang in my head. How often do people feel the need for “luck” when they visit your dealership – and why? What is happening to our customers in sales, in F&I, in service and in parts to elicit the need for luck?

The dealership in question on this particular day is an impressive organization overall. They have a beautiful building in a convenient location with better than average customer amenities. On every visit, I see many of the same smiling faces, and they seem to care about their work and their customers. They have state-of-the-art technology to support a quality customer experience, and yet, things slip through the cracks.

On my last visit, they had to send a part off to a sublet for work. “It should be ready in a week or so,” they said. That was six weeks ago. But that’s not what bothered me most.

I called the dealership every week to check on the status. No one ever called to update me. Why not?

The No. 1 customer complaint in service has long been lack of communication. And service certainly isn’t the only department that could improve their communication – both internally and externally with customers.

The reasons for lack of communication usually fall into two categories: people and process.
The people don’t have the skill or will to do proper follow-up. Either they don’t care or don’t know how. Or the business does not have a system to ensure that customers, jobs, parts and deals are properly followed through to completion. Both people and process issues are costing many dealerships in both customer loyalty and profitability.

Those of us in the industry likely take a stronger interest than the average customer on how dealerships do things. My mind was certainly wondering:

  • Do they generate a work order to attach parts and sublet work to?
  • Does the service advisor have a way to track and schedule units waiting on parts?
  • How does the parts department know if an order has been delayed, canceled, or denied warranty or service contract coverage?
  • How can they tell when/if the customer has been communicated with?

And even worse, I wondered:

  • If the customer didn’t follow up, would they lose the parts sent to the sub forever?
  • Could they be giving away their parts and losing customers in the process?

But if I could ask dealerships just one question, it would be this:

How are you proactively using the information from your failures to improve your processes and to better educate your people? If we don’t learn from these failures, chances are very good the same situation will happen repeatedly.

Looking around the dealership as I wait for my part to (finally!) get installed, I think about all the areas where a customer might feel that luck was (or wasn’t) on their side …

The sales experience. The ‘luck’ of getting a sales professional who listens, who really knows their product and the competition’s product, who seems genuinely interested in giving you the best options for your specific wants and needs. Someone who helps you think through not just the buying process, but also the ownership of the products you’re considering. Someone who wants your lifelong business, not just your next sale.

The F&I experience. The ‘luck’ of getting someone who makes you comfortable discussing a topic that makes many people extremely uncomfortable. Someone who doesn’t appear to judge you based on your credit score. Someone who doesn’t use pressure to sell service contracts or financing. Someone who instead educates you, helps you compare apples to apples, and gives you the space to come to your own conclusion on what is best for your situation.

The service experience. The ‘luck’ of getting someone who loves and understands your product so well they take the guesswork out of ownership. Someone who explains in language you can understand how to best enjoy and care for your boat. Someone who lets you know ahead of time what work you’ve got coming up next, who reminds you and has your back every step of the way – even when it’s time to start thinking about trading in.

The parts experience. The ‘luck’ of getting someone who knows exactly what your parts options are, how much they’ll cost, how available they are, how long it will take to get, and the pros and cons of one option over the other. Someone who understands how you use your boat and gives you suggestions on how to enjoy it even more.

Every one of our departments rely on proactive, honest communication for building trust. It’s called ‘building’ trust because it takes work, and it takes time.
Most customers begin their relationship with a dealership with a deficit of trust.
They think “dealer” – they think “Vegas” – they think “I’m gonna lose!”

It’s up to our team to build trust with each customer in each interaction.

It’s up to leadership to notice when things are happening with our people or with our process that is making trust-building difficult or even impossible – and to remove those barriers.

What does luck have to do with it? Thankfully, not much. It really comes down to that famous Samuel Goldwyn quote: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

The more we work at engaging the team in creating, improving and relying on processes, the more we encourage and facilitate strong communication, the luckier we will be … and the more trusting our customers.

Valerie Ziebron, president of VRZ Consulting, has spent more than two decades helping businesses “fire on all 8” through education and motivation. She makes it a point to uncover best practice “golden nuggets” that help people flip the switch from reactive to proactive for greater profitability and customer loyalty.

Through studying and comparing hundreds of dealerships across North America, VRZ Consulting specializes in what stores can do to maximize their resources, specifically their people, processes, space and location. Learn more at:


The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA) highly recommends Valerie Ziebron and VRZ Consulting for their dealership training and consulting. In fact, we often turn to Valerie and her team as education partners. 

(Did you see the latest publication we partnered to produce? This MRAA Mini-Guide was titled: Why Your Dealership Needs an Org. Chart & What It Will Tell You. Download it or any of our other workforce resources here:

In addition, MRAA’s Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program can help dealerships develop and improve their people and processes. More information at: — Liz Walz, Vice President, MRAA