To be successful in today’s market, you must be able to see what’s going on and figure out how you can capture a piece of the action. Many dive centers are not seeing the big picture.
The dive center owner has to know what people want. That should be simple and easy: Divers want to have fun and enjoy life.
As a new diver in the early 1970s, I learned to dive and bought my gear at a local dive shop, but the shop offered no trips. So I got with a few people who were also divers, and we started a group called the Central Florida Pleasure Divers. The name alone expressed what we wanted, and that was to have fun with new friends and have a good time diving. Our club started because no dive shops in our area were offering trips.
It is no different today. When a new customer comes into a dive center, she should immediately see that staff are professionals in a professional operation: a clean, well-stocked store with clean, well-dressed staff offering the fun and enjoyment that the customer wants.
There should be a prominent trip board with upcoming trips listed, as well as a video playing that shows divers at a resort having fun and some underwater footage. The customer can see it and wants to get in on it. She wants to be in that group and go have some fun.
Capture the excitement! Don’t start off by saying, “Can I help you?” The answer will probably be, “No, I’m just looking,” and then she will look at some BCs, price a few and leave with some ideas. You just lost the opportunity to demonstrate some great customer service. You didn’t even find out whether she is a diver. When you greet her, show some personal interest. Is she a diver? If the answer is no, promote the excitement of diving and your classes. If yes, ask about her recent diving and promote your trips. You might have a good conversation about vacations and trips. It can be a first step toward gaining a regular customer.
Look at today’s dive vacationers. You will see many gray-haired travelers, and that should tell you something. Older people want to have fun too, and they have the time and funds to do it. The demographics of the scuba business have changed from what they once were.
The sales reps want you to get the young folks into diving and sell them the basic equipment. That’s great, but you can’t survive on those sales alone. Many younger divers don’t have a lot of money today. They also don’t have as much leisure time to travel.
The older folks are shopper-wise and look for the best deal. They also love good customer service and will spend more if they feel that you are looking out for their best interests. A lot of them realize time is against them, so they want to enjoy life now, and lack of money is not getting in the way. They like to make new friends and go to exciting places.
It’s your job to get them to trust you when you say, “We can show you tricks to make diving easier.” Don’t let them just cross scuba off their bucket list with a “been there, done that.” That won’t do much for your bottom line, whereas you might have been able to make them a qualified diver who travels with you.
A lot of the older crowd have grandkids and love taking their grandkids with them on adventures. Just think — those kids go back to school and are asked what they did on summer vacation. One of them says, “I went scuba diving with my Grandpa in Cozumel, Mexico.” They become the envy of the class. It’s hard to beat word-of-mouth advertising.
Here is the bottom line: If you don’t give your customers a reason to get certified and gear-up for exciting adventures, then you only sold a class and a set of mask, fins, and snorkel (or maybe just some “I Tried Scuba” deal) and not much else. You have to give the customer a reason to want to be diving.
As NAUI members, we can support each other’s businesses by using the NAUI Travel Group in NAUI C.O.R.E.: store.naui.org/travel to find a next dive destination. And there is NAUI’s general Dive Center Locator Tool: naui.org/locate-dive-centers. There are plenty of websites you can mine to find information and get reviews to help you plan good trips for your customers.
Seniors know they only have so much time to “make it happen” and they will, so why not show them the way? You will make a good living and see the world doing it.