What to Look for in a Local Dive Shop?
by Cris Merz:
As a potential new diver or a diver who has relocated, looking for a new local dive center to buy equipment, take courses, and have equipment serviced at is a big decision. Before trying to figure out what makes one dive center better than another we should first try to analyze what consumers actually want. In any business, in any industry, from the coffee made by their favorite barista, to the customer service they experience from the large companies they are loyal to.
After doing research by Googling, “What do customers want”, and reading numerous generic articles, we decided to take this article to the next level, personalize it and actually ask divers that we interact with, “What are you looking for in a dive center?”
Not surprising, the answers we found online actually mirrored the responses from divers.
Personalized Customer Service and Trust
You want to be taken care of. You want your dive center to take the time to find the mask that is best for you, not their bottom dollar. You want to be treated as a valuable customer, that is all a part of what they do – along with making great divers that are looking to have fun.
Divers are also looking for a customized experience. Sure, shopping online is what we do for many things but do you really want to go online and buy something that is $10.00 cheaper so you can pat yourself on the back for being a great bargain hunter? Don’t look at price, look at value.
Find the dive center that has a staff that is capable of not only explaining to you the benefits of a certain product, but that will also be able to give you a hands on demonstration of how to use it, cover warranty information, and service them when the time comes.
It takes time to gain trust. Trust can be lost in a second but it has to be earned every day. If you enjoy doing business with someone because they are always establishing trust in what they are telling or selling you – you are in good hands already.
Have a Relationship Beyond the Sale
Look, chances are you became a diver because you want to go underwater and have an amazing experience that so few other people can, unless they have a scuba certification. Find a dive center that holds events, organizes trips, and does something in return for the environment. A dive center that does this brings great opportunities for you to meet other like-minded people, as well as have the opportunity to dive in the most incredible places, along with holding environmental clean-up events because, well, it’s rewarding.
A dive center that holds these kinds of events are generally inclusive and share the philosophy of, “let’s get people together and have fun…” Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
Many dive centers even have dive clubs where they get together one evening a month, share pizza and have a guest speaker talk about diving topics such as, diving in the Galapagos, underwater photography, or Intro to Technical Diving and what it entails.
You have the option to get involved and to what extent, but most divers prefer to do business with a dive center that offers some, if not all, of these events and curriculums outside of the buyer/seller relationship.
Pushing Continuing Education
A dive center that pushes continuing education focuses on making good divers better through training. Divers have responded that whether they choose to take a specialty course or not, they have always felt that they experience better relationships with these dive centers as opposed to ones that focus on the Open Water class, the sale of equipment, and then it’s, “Adios.”
If you have already taken your course, you may have had a Dive Master assisting your SDI Open Water Instructor. In many cases, that DM was once just a diver like you. They got certified because they wanted to blow bubbles underwater and dive with cool critters in exotic places. Wanting to learn more about our interests and hobbies is normal. We want to grow as a person. There is a very good chance that the DM started in the same store and worked their way up and volunteers on occasion to help out. That is a good sign of a dive center that values education and hard work as well as customer loyalty… they have to be doing something right.
People find dive centers to work with for various other reasons: location, convenience, ease of doing business, and price – and that is fine. Some divers want that relationship to be business only. But if you are looking for more than just, “That’ll be $49.95… thank you” and want to be a part of a community, find a dive center that offers that. Find the dive center that treats you as part of their community, where they focus on great customer service when you are there for a purchase or to get equipment serviced, offers group trips and events that you can join at your convenience, and has a focus on the training and growth of their customers. Finding a great dive center is not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either, and if you find these elements, you are on the right path.
What do you look for in a dive center? What do you love about your local dive shop?
-Let us know in the comments below.