Chris Aiello Chris Aiello

Dealers: It’s time to up your Aftermarket strategy, not overlook it

During my recent travels and meetings with industry colleagues, dealers, and OEMs, many discussions took place exploring the dynamics and progress of the first half of this calendar year.  A significant takeaway from these discussions is while the intense competition for talented workforce and skilled labor continues to be a trend in our industry, there is also a notable influx of new talent stepping into crucial roles within these organizations.  This influx of new talent is a perfect opportunity to delve into the topic of the lift truck dealership selling aftermarket products and services.

The importance of efficient aftermarket services in our industry cannot be overstated. Your approach to after-sales operations should be viewed as a crucial strategy to enhance profitability and customer retention in your dealership. While the primary focus is often on equipment sales, dealerships must recognize that after-marketing can significantly boost the bottom line and strengthen customer relationships long after the initial transaction.

After-marketing in the dealership is frequently overlooked, largely due to a common hesitation among salespeople to engage customers beyond the primary sale. This reluctance stems from a misconception that customers may perceive additional sales efforts as pushy or unwarranted. However, this approach leaves a significant amount of potential revenue on the table. After-marketing, when done correctly, is not about pressuring customers, but about enhancing their experience and providing them with value that complements their initial purchase.

For this month’s edition, let us delve into the current trends, challenges, technological advancements, and sustainable practices that are shaping the future of aftermarket services in our industry.

Trends and Challenges

The aftermarket sector is seeing a dynamic shift, primarily driven by the growing need for rapid response services and advanced maintenance solutions. Lift truck dealerships are particularly feeling the pressure to meet increased expectations from their customers for quicker turnaround times and higher reliability. The rise of e-commerce has also escalated the demand for material handling equipment to be at peak operational efficiency, thereby increasing the reliance on effective aftermarket services that a dealership can provide.

Implementing an effective after-marketing strategy is not without challenges. Training sales and service teams to adopt a customer-centric approach that emphasizes long-term relationship building over immediate sales is crucial.  Supplier product availability issues continue to disrupt operations, impacting service timelines and costs. Additionally, there is a burgeoning gap in skilled labor, with many dealerships struggling to find and retain qualified technicians. Moreover, you must continuously evaluate and adapt your offerings to meet changing market conditions and customer expectations.

Expanding Service and Parts Offerings

Successful dealerships understand the importance of offering a comprehensive range of services and parts not only for forklifts but also for related equipment. By providing parts, service, and service agreements for non-forklift machinery such as Sweeper Scrubbers, Personnel Burden Carriers, and Mobile Elevating Work Platforms, dealerships can become a one-stop shop for their customers’ diverse equipment maintenance needs. This broader service offering allows dealerships to capitalize on their existing relationships, encouraging customers to consolidate their purchasing needs under one trusted provider.

Keep in mind, that even if your dealership does not repair or service these types of equipment, your parts and sales teams can still offer and sell these types of replacement parts.  Does your sales team know all of the products they have at their disposal from their supplier partners?  Here’s how to effectively assess and address replacement parts needs for some of these non-forklift ancillary warehouse equipment types:

  1. Sweeper Scrubbers

Key Parts: Brushes, filters, squeegees, and motors are crucial for the optimal performance of sweepers/scrubbers. These parts endure constant wear and require periodic replacements to maintain cleaning efficiency and prolong the lifespan of the machinery.

Sales Approach: Create tailored maintenance packages that include periodic replacement of these parts. Offer volume discounts or bundled deals on consumables that need frequent replacement, encouraging customers to purchase for stocking on-hand inventory to ensure they always have critical parts on hand.

  1. Personnel Burden Carriers

Key Parts: Pay attention to batteries, tires, and braking systems, which are essential for the reliable operation of these vehicles. Batteries, in particular, can degrade over time and require regular checks and replacements to maintain optimal performance.

Sales Approach: Recommend regular battery tests and maintenance services. Propose tire and brake replacements as part of a comprehensive service check to enhance safety and vehicle responsiveness.

  1. Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs)

Key Parts: Focus on critical components such as hydraulic hoses, control panels, tires, and safety gear like guardrails and harness points. These parts are essential for the safe operation of MEWPs and often require regular inspection and replacement due to wear and tear or compliance with safety regulations.

Sales Approach:  Focus on emphasizing the benefits of compliance, such as enhanced safety, reduced liability, and improved operational efficiency, by providing tailored assessments, expert guidance, and ongoing support to help clients meet ANSI standards for their MEWPs.

By being observant, asking the right questions, and understanding the operations of your customer’s facility, you can uncover numerous opportunities for additional parts and service sales.  Be proactive and knowledgeable about the parts and service needs of the various equipment in your customer’s operation to ensure that they experience minimal operational disruption and maintain high levels of productivity and safety. This strategic approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also positions your dealership as a reliable and essential partner in their operations.

Technological Integration in After-Marketing

Today, technology plays a pivotal role in optimizing after-marketing strategies. Many dealerships are now utilizing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems to track customer interactions across your dealership and tailor marketing efforts accordingly. These systems help dealerships understand customer needs better, predict when they might require additional services, and promptly respond with personalized offers.

CRM accompanied by the digital transformation of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) based telematics, and predictive analytics is revolutionizing aftermarket services.  For instance, IoT telemetry solutions can enable real-time monitoring of equipment health, allowing dealerships to predict failures before they occur and schedule preemptive maintenance. Similarly, AI can optimize repair schedules and parts logistics, improving service efficiency.  You can also leverage AI to enhance your dealership’s CRM in several key ways helping your sales teams work more efficiently, make better-informed decisions, and ultimately drive more sales.

Mobile apps or customer online portals can enhance the customer experience by allowing customers to schedule services, order parts, and communicate directly with your dealership from their smartphones. This convenience often translates into increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Leveraging these technologies will help your dealership put a focus on customization and customer-centric solutions. Advanced analytics and customer data will play crucial roles in shaping service offerings, making them more aligned with specific customer needs and operational environments.  In April’s edition, I wrote about data-driven decision making and this continues to resonate with one of MHEDA’s 2024 Material Handling Business Trends worth repeating this month, ‘Technology is profoundly impacting the material handling industry including artificial intelligence, digital automation, data-driven decision-making, and the integration of advanced systems that optimize efficiency, productivity, and safety. Members must have a clear understanding of emerging technologies.’

Sustainability in the Aftermarket

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in our industry. Your dealership can contribute by promoting the use of remanufactured parts and recycling old components. Such practices not only appeal to environmentally conscious customers but also reduce waste and lower the costs associated with raw materials.

Adopting sustainable practices can significantly enhance a dealership’s brand reputation and customer loyalty. Furthermore, it aligns with global trends toward sustainability, opening opportunities to tap into new markets and customer segments.  As I’ve stated in the past, more and more dealers and suppliers I talk to are adding sustainability initiatives and incorporating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies into their businesses.  Your customers are more aware of environmental issues and prefer companies that minimize their carbon footprint, reduce waste, and use sustainable materials. They want to partner with eco-friendly suppliers that align with their values and their customers’ values too.

Call to Action

By embracing technological advancements, sustainable practices, and innovative business practices, your dealership can ensure continued relevance and profitability in our rapidly evolving industry.  After-marketing is not just a tactic to increase sales—it’s an essential strategy for the growth of your dealership and customer retention.  By providing comprehensive, thoughtful services that extend beyond the initial sale, your dealership can secure a sustainable competitive advantage and improve customer satisfaction by providing a one-stop-shop experience.

About the Author:

Chris Aiello is the Business Development Manager at TVH Parts Co.  He has been in the equipment business for 17-plus years as a service manager, quality assurance manager, and business development manager. Chris now manages a national outside sales team selling replacement parts and accessories in various equipment markets such as material handling, equipment rental, and construction/earthmoving dealerships.