Did someone say downtime? For many dealers, there is plenty of that in the winter months. We belong to an industry with seasonal peaks and valleys. Of course, in some areas, motorcycle riding is generally a year-round activity. However, in other parts of the country snow and road salt may keep a motorcycle cooped up for five months! In places like this, motorcycle storage – whether at home or at the dealership – is the norm.
From a practical standpoint, increasing customization when motorcycles are captive in storage makes sense. Technicians often need things to do in slow times – and what better way to pass the time than by upgrading a motorcycle with performance parts? It also is a great time for the less experienced to learn from the experienced. Create a team that will start planning today for a winter full of customization and special service work. And keep in mind, these kinds of extra services will be extremely important for the future of our business.
How: Making the Most of your Motorcycle Off-Season
1. Up with Downtime
Let’s look at ways for your dealership to maximize motorcycle downtime. If you are in a warm climate and winter storage is not the norm, consider your own customization options during any sort of downtime you may have. Is there a heavy rainy season when people don’t ride much? Is there a very hot, humid month when riders prefer an air-conditioned automobile? Is there a month when business is slow and you could use some bigger customization or performance projects? Do you know customers, who are going to be traveling abroad, leaving their motorcycle for a while?
2. Warming Them Up to Winter Storage
Don’t let go when the leaves fall – cold can freeze riders’ enthusiasm, and their attention may quickly turn from motorcycling to skiing and snowmobiling. So begin planning early while riders are still thinking about motorcycling, and offer them storage specials for the upcoming hibernation period. There are plenty of ways to spread the word that you offer storage, such as:
• Word of mouth: Remember to mention your storage program to customers.
• Use the marketing materials that include bag stuffers, website merchandising assets, reminder postcards, window and counter signs, and gift key chains.
• Include an article about your storage special in your dealership newsletter.
• Hand out flyers at dealership-sponsored events
• A printed message on sales receipts
• A phone call or e-mail reminder to those who stored their motorcycle with you last year. (Ask them to tell their riding friends, too!)
3. Equalizing Service Capacity
Motorcycle storage at dealerships continues to rise. Think about the crazy rush in spring – how technicians are overwhelmed and customers are frustrated when they want new accessories installed and spring tune-ups performed – and you can see why maximizing slow time makes incredibly good sense. Redistributing the workload to equalize labor demands is good for personnel as well as customers.
4. Sell the Benefits of a Controlled Environment. Make customers aware of the value of leaving their motorcycle with your maintenance experts. Assure them that you won’t just park their motorcycle inside and forget it, but that you’ll take the proper steps to get it ready for storage – a process that ensures maximum longevity. Most dealerships include the cost of fuel stabilizer and battery maintenance in their storage fees. Tires and fluids are checked in spring to guarantee that stored motorcycles are ready to ride at pick-up time. Besides convenience, climate control in northern, snowy climates is another selling point for dealer storage.
5. Take Good Care of My Baby. You will be storing private property for quite a while, transporting these motorcycles and doing service work on them. Double-check that all precautions have been taken regarding insurance, contractual language and state laws. You may be a person who negotiates these things, or you may turn to a peer or supervisor for these items. Just make sure you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Make sure you’ve got a signed repair order.
1. Additional Suggestions:
• Allow 32 sq. ft. per motorcycle. Leave room for people to move around in the storage area for a number of activities.
• Call upon a Service Writer or a parts employee to conduct a systematic intake process. Do this with each customer; if they say they are too busy, explain that it is just standard procedure to do a walk-around to agree on the condition of the motorcycle and discover any critical service issues. Make sure you are asking for the extra orders during this time.
• Get the storage commitment early and request that customers pay “up front.” Why? Because if you need to rent off-site storage, that third party will want the money up front. You should keep the same policy for every customer.
• If a customer pays $200 up front for a storage package, then buys enough customization to earn free storage, you can simply deduct that $200 from the final total. It is still preferable to get the storage fee up front.
2. Keep everyone in the loop and excited about Downtime Do-Time. Try creating folders for every single employee in the dealership to keep flyers and other information in one place so each customer contact person has a record of current and future specials. Have employees review their “menu” every morning and maximize cross promotional efforts!
In addition to running seasonal service specials, create several other flyers for use with winter storage. All suggest additional services to keep customer satisfaction high. Consider these titles:
• Preferred Package
• Basic Package
• Winter Storage Checklist (with a “complete” column to be checked off)
• 15-Point Quality Checklist Pickup and Delivery Information
3. If the customer points out a needed repair on the motorcycle, create a separate repair order for that repair, whether or not it is a warrantable situation. Create one repair order for the upgrades related to the storage agreement and one for the actual repair. Get that separate repair order opened and closed as soon as possible. Get the customer to sign off and acknowledge the separate event. Reason: If you store the motorcycle for three months, the customer could claim that you held onto it because of mechanical problems – and that could lead to a lemon-law claim. Do not let this sort of misunderstanding happen to you.
4. Coordinating Efforts
OK, you’ve got contracts for new work and you have the motorcycles for several weeks. How should you prioritize the new work resulting from your Downtime Do-Time plan? How will you get everyone working together and take care of walk-in business, pickup business and additional storage-time business?
First come, first served doesn’t apply as strictly as it does during peak riding season. But don’t turn that into procrastination. You can start by creating a matrix of all the work and when it needs to be completed. Lay it all out so you can analyze it correctly. Start mapping out a schedule, matching the work to the expertise of each technician. Things to consider:
• Job complexity (Do certain jobs need to start early?)
• Cost of the services to your store (How long will you float these costs?)
• Parts availability (You might hold off because you are anticipating some new accessories you can include in an upselling plan.)
• Technicians’ schedules
• Are there similar jobs or upgrades that would make sense to do in the same week?
5. Evaluate Results
The ability to track results is important to any business. Implement a plan to analyze the outcome of your winter storage promotions. First, build a system to capture data. Data points/fields include:
• Customers who stored motorcycles with you
• How they found out about the specials (Flyers? Web site? One of your service or sales people? A window sign? Direct mail?)
• When they were first approached?
• Time and duration of storage
• What did they buy? How much did they spend? How did they pay/finance it all?
• Who actually closed the sale (if that is different from the writer)?