This is an updated article we wrote to equipment dealers two years ago and we are rewriting it today for those dealers who have set their 2016 resolutions and intentions into their new business plans. We want to remind you all to understand the difference between intention/resolution and accomplishment!
We believe quite strongly that the questions asked in this article deserve focus and attention. The concept of enhancing the customers’ buying experience requires a fundamental change in the mindset of the equipment dealer. The days of dealer entitlement are long gone.
When you sell a commodity, whether we like it or not most manufacturers’ products; the products that are sold by the equipment dealer are commodities. More and more products are becoming look-alikes and work-alikes. Therefore, when you sell a product, if you agree it is a commodity you must outperform your competition because all your competitors offer great equipment that does the same thing as the products you are offering, and your customers have a definite choice.
Turn your intentions into accomplishments! Make sure that everyone within your dealership is focusing upon making the customers’ buying experience at your dealership an experience that truly wows the customer. Dare to be different from your competition, make the customer want to come back to your dealership again, again and again and watch your market share of product increase dramatically, while your dealership’s profitability increases accordingly.
The term buyer’s remorse surfaced many years ago, by whom we do not know. What it refers to is the remorse or mental anguish arising from a past experience. When tied to the word “buyer” it becomes the anguish concerning the buyer’s choice from whom he purchased the equipment. Did the buyer make the right decision? Did he make an educated choice?
Or, was the choice made because of a few bells and whistles, the color of the equipment or the products’ market position based on units sold? It is at this point, and particularly with a new buyer, that other more important questions come to mind. Unanswered questions like: “Does the dealer have the resources, personnel and facilities to take care of my needs and requirements after the sale of the equipment?”
In the equipment business, customers buy a product to fill a specific requirement or need for that particular customer. For the buyer, the equipment he has purchased is the means by which he provides his living; whether the customer is the owner of the company, whether or not he is the operator of the equipment, or whether he is the purchaser of the product the dealer is selling, they are all business people whose livelihood depends upon the equipment performing up to their standard.
Customers as a general rule want to single source the equipment they purchase. They want to return to where they purchased the equipment for their product support needs. They don’t want to have to source parts, they don’t want to look for someone who can fix their equipment right the first time and they don’t want to go elsewhere for a rental unit. The customer in effect wants to return to where the unit was purchased for his needs and requirements after the sale.
When queried as to what customers are looking for in order to dispel what we refer to as buyer’s remorse: 1) Parts availability - they want a dealer who maintains and carries in stock the right parts, at the right time and at the right price, or is able to have the parts within 24 hours. 2) Service Response Time - they want a dealer who has the ability and quality of personnel to keep unscheduled down-time to a bare minimum. 3) They want trained personnel working on their equipment. 4) They want these quality trained personnel to be both friendly and reliable and available and ready to work on their equipment when the unit(s) are down.
I’ve had the opportunity over the years to do work for what I call world-class equipment dealers. Getting to know these dealers made it possible for me to talk and question customers as they came into the dealership.
These conversations with customers became the fun part of my job, the questions and answers were face to face, enlightening and quite interesting. At the parts counter I might ask a question like: “Do you shop here for all your parts? Isn’t it possible that you can get a better price down the street?” The answer: “Yea, I buy almost 100% of my requirements here. I know in some cases I pay a higher price than I could get down the street, but these people have the parts on the shelf or can have them delivered to me by tomorrow afternoon!” Then I might switch the topic to the dealers’ Service Department, with a question like this: “Do you use this dealership for servicing your equipment?” To which the general reply may run something like this: “Yea, I get my service done here and sometimes I wonder why I’m paying a premium price . . . $149.50 an hour, but then I know for certain when they fix it, it will be fixed right. They keep telling me that their technicians are the best there is and I can’t dispute it, because they have always done the job right the first time and best of all they are “on-time” and I have no argument with that . . . they do a great job at servicing what they sell! Another thing is that when this dealer does the work they always alert me to any problems I may want to take care of now rather than later. They take care of me and my boss and that’s the important thing. We can’t afford to have our equipment side-lined or down all together.”
Do you always get answers like this when you ask these questions? Certainly, you know if I told you that praise is all you hear . . . then you would have a hard time believing me. But think about this, what if you heard answers like this 50% to 65% of the time . . . because that is what we see in world-class equipment dealerships and that kind of praise brings equipment into your shop, pumps up your field work and sells a lot of parts. This provides a dealership with a whole lot of sales and profits and an increase in customer satisfaction indexes. This leads to an increase in customer retention, which leads to increased market share. Oh, by the way isn’t that why you (your dad, your grandfather or your great-grand father) got into the business of being an equipment dealer?
Can you change your customers’ attitude over-night? Can you do away with buyer’s remorse in a couple of weeks? The answer is: probably not, because many of you have spent years taking customers for granted; putting up with employees who are merely reactive to customer’s needs. Many dealers have also spent years being primarily suppliers to their customers and have neglected being marketers of their products and services. But you can start right now changing the dealership’s attitude and approach and changing the attitude and approach of your managers, (Sales, Parts, Service, Rental and Used), then working to get every dealership employee on the same page with customer service, which in the long run drives customer retention.
We have spent a lot of hours over the past thirty plus years with equipment dealers trying to help them focus upon what we refer to as their unrecognized opportunity . . . the dealership’s aftermarket.
Most dealers can tell you the names of all their big customers, they know them by heart and generally mentally come to attention the minute that customer walks through the front door. They can tell you the number of dollars or number of units that customer purchased from the dealership over the past five years; without even looking up the numbers.
Ask that dealer how much service business he brings into the shop yearly and he’ll tell you that’s a question for his Service Manager. When the dealer goes to the Service Manager to ask, he may hear something like this: “Oh, he has been doing his own service work for years and he’s got a shop bigger than ours and has his own technicians! We do hear from him from time to time when he’s having a problem and needs some information from our technicians.”
It was pointed out years ago that too few dealers take the time at the point of sale to ask the customer for his service business. Maybe, just maybe that is why many customers build their own shops and bring in their own technicians. They feel that since you didn’t ask for their business, you didn’t want it and therefore, since they know the unit is likely to break-down they make arrangements to do their own service work.
Most equipment dealers are amazed when they look at their computer sales reports to discover just how many of their equipment customers are not purchasing their service from the dealership who sold the equipment. It is almost like dealers are not really interested in having this additional profitable business. I am told so many times that it is because we don’t have enough technicians to perform this work and the customers believe our labor rates are too high. They get a lower price from the Independents or the shade-tree technicians. It is unbelievable the number of varying reasons why an equipment dealer’s Service Contribution to Total Sales is so low. But to be honest, the real reason is that those with Low Service Contribution are simply not willing to focus upon their profitable opportunities, nor are they willing to truly market their dealerships’ capabilities to service the customers after the sale of the product.
It is the start of a New Year. It will be 2016 by the time you read this. You will have made up your business and marketing plans for the coming year. You have probably even made a few New Year resolutions or intentions as to some of the changes you want to make in your business or your department for the coming year. I sincerely hope that you’ll pick up on the theme of this article and start looking at the opportunities your dealership has with your aftermarket. Stop being a Doubting Thomas and believe that the opportunity is in the back-end of your business.
If you are serious about changing and would like a “jump-start”, email me at email@example.com and ask for our manual entitled: Laying the Groundwork for Developing a Value-Added Culture. It is yours, free of charge, my Christmas present to you, our readers. We wish all you equipment dealers out there a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year!
John R. Walker is president of Aftermarket Services Consulting Co. Inc. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact John.