Data tools and TRUST
One of the things I repeatedly see in the dealerships I visit is the disconnect that the dealer has with their own road-based technicians. Technicians are such a vital link to the customer. An inherent level of trust is built over the years, and repeated successful repair visits over time only strengthen this valuable customer connection.
The questions are: Do we see these relationships as assets? If so, what are we doing to leverage those assets and encourage a higher level of profitable and mutually beneficial encounters?
When I refer to a “disconnect” I am referring to how our service culture many times limits the technician’s exposure to customer service tools, information, communication, and autonomous authority. We don’t think these barriers exist…but more often than not…they do.
In our current marketplace, communication and access to data is the key to success. Successful dealerships have every customer-facing employee equipped with the tools to take care of it NOW. Are your “customer contact” employees able to say YES? Or do they have to say:
- I don’t have the authority to do that
- Let me ask my manager
- I don’t have the parts onboard
- I’m not really allowed to quote anything
- Someone will have to call you back
- I don’t have access to that information
- We don’t do that in this department
- I’m just a PM technician
Be honest. Our industry in many ways is still following a model of customer service that forces smart and capable employees to say NO instead of YES.
How can we turn this around? There are two methods that we can use to quickly and efficiently improve our customer communication through our road techs. BOTH of them require us to change our current CULTURE, and TRUST our employees with data and authority we may not currently be comfortable with.
The reason we are not comfortable is that former attempts to trust your staff may have resulted in uncontrolled and financially painful outcomes. To prevent this carnage from happening again, we wrest communications away from the front lines, (back to the management) and seek to funnel ALL communications through the management and administrative channels. This may feel right, this may feel safe, this may even feel efficient, but make no mistake…. these practices breed a culture that results in customers hearing all of the bullet points listed above.
If we are going to try this again, let’s do so by preparing and implementing clearly understood procedures, governed by industry-tested and explicit SOP’s (standard operating procedures). The most successful road techs have WRITTEN SOP’s that allow them to know:
- What they are approved to do.
- What they are EQUIPPED to do.
- Where to find data that is useful for customer service (schedules, pricing, parts).
- How to manage customer expectations in regard to quoted services and timelines.
So, if you are going to have a system in place that allows technicians to quote, close and complete work based on their own “van-based” resources and data, what tools and information will they need access to, in order to truly improve the customer experience? Here are some initial questions to consider.
Every OEM publishes a schedule of recommended maintenance that is required to keep the warranty valid and prevent the unit from experiencing significant repair. The “system maintenance” items included on this maintenance table include transmissions, differentials, brakes, ignition, cooling systems, hydraulic systems, ignition systems, and fuel and exhaust systems. The service intervals for these systems will be based on accumulated hours and will be variable.
Imagine our road techs operating in a system where they:
- Had access to a full list of required maintenance intervals for every unit they worked on
- Had the filters, fluids, and parts onboard the van to complete these maintenance tasks
- Had flat rate prices available to quote a customer on the needed maintenance
I can only speak about what I observe in the field. What my observations tell me is that in MOST cases SYSTEM maintenance just doesn’t get done. The reason? We depend on the CUSTOMER to schedule these services…. and they don’t. Unless WE properly equip our own people with the tools they need to quote and complete these services, on the spot, when they are due, we will continue to let profitable customer service opportunities evaporate into thin air.
SO, your road tech tells the customer that the unit has accumulated 5000 hours and requires a hydraulic service. The customer asks…” When was the last time the hydraulics were serviced?”
Do your road techs have the digital capability to access the service history of the machines they are working on? Remember that the goal of this improvement is to have READY answers to ANTICIPATED questions. Not having this data available either digitally or in printed (and updated time-sensitive) formats, only forces us to have to say, I don’t know.
Ready data is the key to success. It’s not that hard, especially with the mobile data capabilities available in the marketplace today.
There are certain items that EVERY customer-facing employee should be able to quote on the spot, regardless of who the OEM may be.
- LP Tanks
- Replacement Forks
- Lift Chains (for most popular mast heights)
All of these items should be priced including installation, freight, delivery…etc. Prices on these items should be COMPETITIVE, and every technician should be visually inspecting ALL of these items EVERY TIME they touch a machine.
They won’t do it…if they don’t have the data. Let’s make this easy.
I can help you!
Many times, culture changes are more difficult than they seem.
- Are your people ready or willing for this new expectation of communication?
- Are your techs TRAINED on how to engage and present these solutions to the customer?
- How do we “ramp in” to offerings like this without overwhelming our staff?
- How will our van stocking practices have to change?
- Are there TEMPLATES for SOP’s that we can access to get started?
Resonant Dealer Services is in business to shepherd dealers through this very process. Simply call me, and I would be happy to get you started. (209)652-7511.
I trust that warmer weather and healthier times are ahead for all of us! Let’s make the MOST of 2021!
About the Author:
Dave Baiocchi is the president of Resonant Dealer Services LLC. He has spent 39 years in the equipment business as a sales manager, aftermarket director, and dealer principal. Dave now consults with dealerships nationwide to establish and enhance best practices, especially in the area of aftermarket development and performance. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Dave.