Great Service, Top Sales, Success at Talley's
When representatives from Regal dealers across the country gathered in Key Largo, FL for the annual meeting last September, Talley’s Pier 77 Marine was recognized for some impressive achievements. The Cornelius, NC dealership walked away with the first-place award for customer satisfaction worldwide and ranked 7th in sales worldwide. It was the second time that Talley’s had earned the top service award with a 100% score. That kind of rating might make one doubt the integrity of the voting process but only if they are not familiar with Talley’s.
Since the company first began serving the Lake Norman area in 1986, founders and owners Bill and Sara Talley’s number one priority has been to exceed customer expectation. That’s a high bar, particularly when you’re dealing with high-end customers purchasing big ticket luxury items. Yet, Talley’s continues to clear it with ease. Perhaps that’s because, as a lifelong boater, Bill understands their needs and wants.
Bill got hooked on boating and lake living as a little boy. He and his family spent many days skiing, swimming and fishing at Lake Wylie. Those memories and experiences prompted him to own a boat before he was old enough to drive. Despite his affinity for boats, he started his career as an auto mechanic and soon opened his own service station. When he and Sara opened the boat dealership, they did so with the motto “We Do It Right Or We Won’t Do It At All.”
More than 30 years later, that remains the company motto and Talley’s remains a family affair. Bill and Sara’s twin sons, Joey and Billy, grew up in the business and are an integral part of its success.
The company’s long and mutually beneficial relationship with Regal began, in large part, because both companies share similar views about family and business practices. The Talley’s were impressed with the quality and construction of Regal boats and the integrity of its owners, Paul and Carol Kuck. “Regal is a family owned and operated business just like we are,” says Bill. “You can see the passion the Kucks have for boating in the outstanding quality of each and every model they build.”
For more than a decade, Talley’s was an exclusive Regal dealership – the largest in the state of North Carolina one of the largest in the world. In 2011, the business decided to expand to offer their customers a wider range of choices, starting with a variety of Godfrey Pontoons.
Bill and Sara always had a passion for and interest in adding off-shore fishing boats to their product line. After thoroughly researching different manufacturers, they settled on Pursuit’s luxury, handcrafted line. Impressed with the company’s integrity, product quality and customer support, they began selling the brand to their customers in 2016. It proved to be a great compliment to their line of Regal and Godfrey boats. This newly expanded inventory allows Talley’s to reach three very different markets, and offer the customer any type of boating experience.
While some dealers offer competing product lines, Talley’s made a strategic decision to avoid selling lines that contend with one another for customers. “Some dealers sell competing models but not us,” says Sara. “Regal is our only fiberglass sport line. They don’t build a pontoon boat like Godfrey or a center console fishing boat like Pursuit.”
You might think that with so much focus on customer care and service, Talley’s sales numbers might lag. You would be mistaken. Last September, the company also received Regal’s President’s Club award for sales volume, ranking 7th worldwide. A good deal of Talley’s increase in sales volume is the natural outcome of the area’s population growth. “More people are moving to the area and that has definitely increased our volume,” says Sara.
In addition, many residents who once considered purchasing a beach house three hours away came to appreciate the benefit of having a nearby lake house with a boat or just a boat. Rather than relying on the growing pool of potential customers, Bill and Sara continue to work hard for every customer with a laser focus on giving them the ultimate customer experience. Instead of a one-size-fits-all sales approach, their strategy is to match the right customer with the right boat based on their particular lifestyle. Customers get a chance to test drive the boats and get them on the water as many times as they need to make a decision.
“Our ultimate goal is to offer the best product but also an exceptional experience,” says Bill. “Keeping up volume and service is very subtle. We have high expectations and assume that our customers also have very high expectations. That mindset helps us achieve these highly-satisfied customers.”
Like any business, not every customer interaction is flawless. However, the Talleys and their 15 employees focus on how to make things right, primarily by remembering the golden rule. “If you treat customers the way you want to be treated, they’re happier with the outcome,” says Bill.
That may sound like routine marketing spin but the business has more than platitudes to back up such statements. The family prides itself on delivering a level of service not standard for the industry. For them, the sale is the beginning, not the end, of customer service. To get an indication of their priorities, take a look at where resources are allocated. Talley’s has two service locations and far more service employees than salespersons.
Boats don’t come turn-key ready from the manufacturer. It is the dealer’s responsibility to make sure it is properly set up when the customer receives it, but that is often not the case. Talley’s work to make sure every boat they deliver is properly detailed, ready to go and that the customer has whatever he or she needs to be legal when they put it in the water.
Every boat they sell arrives equipped with such things as dock lines, fenders and standard safety equipment. Each customer also receives a thorough foundation and orientation via an on-water tutorial with a qualified instructor. A Talley’s representative provides hands-on instruction in owner safety, maneuvering, docking and trailer techniques, as well as underway procedures to ensure the new owner is comfortable with his new purchase.
“I think we do that better than any other dealership,” says Bill. “We take a lot of pride in this because we believe in it. Nothing is more upsetting than seeing inexperienced boaters on the water.”
Maintaining excellent customer service while increasing sales volume can be a tricky proposition but the Talleys have clearly figured out the formula. They offer highly sought-after products at a fair price in a low-pressure environment and excellent after-sales service. That’s how they’ve done it for more than 30 years and don’t see any reason to change.