Do your homework so you know enough for your customers

‘Tis the season for new motorcycle releases and the accessories that accompany them. In that regard it doesn’t hurt to ask ourselves, “What do my customers expect me to know about the new products we sell?” I bet your answer to that is a somewhat sarcastic “Every freakin’ thing!” That’s impossible, so what’s reasonable and how should we prepare for the work and questions ahead?

If you’re working in service as an advisor or a technician, we can all agree that the first step is to become familiar with the changes in the new vehicles. Motorcycle manufacturers differ in how they distribute service information to the dealerships. If your brand is late to the party with service manuals and parts books, then at least review the setup, pre-delivery and inspection manual front to back, along with the owner’s manual.

Yes, I said the owner’s manual. It’s reasonable for customers to expect that we know what’s in their owner’s manual. Of special importance are the manufacturer warnings, instructions for new accessories such as an audio system or GPS unit, and information such as what’s performed in the first vehicle service and whether special lubricants or fluids must be used.

As far as product information about the new accessories, it’s as simple as reviewing the new accessory catalog and identifying the accessories that are different from last year. Hopefully the catalog publisher notes the “new” accessories in some manner. I know Harley-Davidson does, and that makes it much easier to focus my attention on the few hundred new accessories in the mix of more than 6,000 accessories in their big catalog.

Now that you’ve identified which accessories are new, get up to speed on the 20 percent of information that 80 percent of our customers expect us to know.

A common customer question is, “Does it fit mine?” So get comfortable with the accessory’s fitment by brand, year and model, and know whether there could be a conflict with other accessories.

Sure, the customer can read the ad copy in the catalog, but what they really want is the inside information from you, the expert. To start, decipher the marketing verbiage and deliver, in your own words, two to three features and benefits that tell the story of what the product does, what makes it unique or better, and why this product is good for the customer.

For example, let’s use the Harley-Davidson Reduced Reach Seat for the new Street models. First up is to answer the obvious question created by the name.

  1. This seat positions the rider 1.5” lower in the saddle and 1.25” forward compared to the stock seat. For shorter riders, this makes it easier to reach the hand and foot controls, and manage the bike when stopped.
  2. The seat nose is 1.25” narrower, so the rider’s legs are closer together, which makes it easier to lift the bike off the side stand.
  3. The rider’s seat width is 10.25”, which provides good support and comfort, and the passenger width is about 7”.

You may sell several brands, which can create some customer confusion. In this regard, simplify shopping by streamlining your product or service choices of the same category. I’ve been to a number of stores that display the OE version of engine oil along with aftermarket brands. They all sit nicely side-by-side on the shelf. This leads customers to have conversations with dealer staff that can make matters worse, such as when the parts guy says, “Pick whatever you want, they’re all good” and the service guy says, “ I only use this brand in my bike.” If that’s your scenario, just realize that 1) You are supposed to be the expert, so why does the customer have to decide? and 2) If a product sucks, then why are you selling it?

If this describes your dealership, you need to get parts and service on the same page so they deliver identical recommendations to customers. This can be a decision made by management rule or vote, including all parts and service staff.

Extra Fuel for Thought

  • It’s reasonable for customers to expect you to know about any product on display, especially high-profile items near the parts or service counter. Before putting any new product on display, the department should hold a training session so staff knows fitment, F&Bs, price and cost to install.
  • When talking about a product or service, lead with F&Bs, not price. Otherwise it’s an uphill battle for customers to recover from sticker shock on the higher priced items.
  • Communicate one feature, one benefit at a time to make it easier for customers to digest and retain the information. Example, “This luggage rack is chrome-plated, which is an attractive, tough surface that’s easy to maintain.”

Finally, deliver the information with a smile. Your customers are in this sport to make their life more fulfilling, so follow my simple rhyme, “Make it fun and make it easy, and your sales will be pleasing!”