Chris Aiello Chris Aiello

Is your dealership too busy selling hats to each other?

In April’s edition, I wrote about the topic of data-driven decision-making.  In one instance, I discussed how most dealerships I visit live with silos of data that do not integrate with each other.  The topic of data silos and departmental silos resonated with some of my industry colleagues, so I felt compelled to make it a topic for this month’s article.

For your business, success hinges not only on the quality of products and services you sell but also on the seamless collaboration between the different departments within your dealership. The traditional model of siloed departments can impede efficiency, communication, and ultimately, customer satisfaction; breaking down these silos is essential for thriving in today’s landscape within our industry.

I recently spoke to an industry colleague that referenced the phrase, “We’re too busy selling hats to each other” when explaining the struggles with departmental silos within their dealership.  They noted this phrase came from the book, ‘Results Rule! How to Build a Culture That Blows the Competition Away,” authored by Randy G. Pennington.

In the book, it is highlighted that the phrase is often used metaphorically to describe a situation where your employees are preoccupied with trivial or inconsequential matters rather than focusing on more important issues or opportunities, i.e. delivering best-in-class customer service.

In essence, it suggests that instead of focusing on meaningful endeavors or addressing critical challenges, your employees are caught up in relatively unimportant tasks or pursuits, akin to metaphorically selling hats to each other, which might seem busy or active but ultimately lack substance or value.

Is your business too internally focused?  Are your employees and departments “too busy selling hats to each other?”

When your business becomes too internally focused, it risks losing touch with the external factors that drive your relevance and innovation. This inward focus can manifest in various ways, each posing significant challenges to your dealership’s growth and competitiveness.

One of the most glaring issues when your employees are too internally focused, and your various departments act independently within silos is the lack of customer-centricity. When your employees become too preoccupied with its internal operations and processes, they may lose sight of the evolving needs and preferences of your customers. This disconnect can lead to your services or once competitive advantages no longer resonating in the market, ultimately resulting in declining sales and customer dissatisfaction.

Moreover, an internal focus often breeds complacency and resistance to change within the organization. When losing focus externally on things such as feedback from customers or insights from industry peers, your dealership will risk falling into a state of stagnation.  This stagnation can quickly lead to obsolescence, as your competitors seize opportunities and innovate ahead.

Furthermore, an internally focused dealership is likely to miss out on valuable opportunities for innovation. Innovations often arise from understanding market gaps and anticipating future needs, both of which require a keen awareness of external dynamics. By neglecting to engage with the market and monitor industry trends, you limit your ability to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.

Siloed departments are usually a result of these internally focused habits in your dealership which present several challenges. Firstly, communication breakdowns frequently occur, leading to misunderstandings, service delays, and dissatisfied customers. Secondly, these departments often operate with disparate processes that do not align with your dealership’s overarching goals, resulting in redundancy, resource wastage, and decreased productivity. Additionally, the lack of cross-departmental collaboration can lead to missed opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, and delivering comprehensive solutions tailored to your customers’ needs.

What are some strategies you can implement to start to break down silos within your dealership?

First, look at forming cross-functional teams comprised of individuals from various departments within your dealership.  This can promote collaboration and facilitate a comprehensive approach to problem-solving.  Secondly, establish shared customer-centric key performance indicators and goals.  This ensures alignment across all of your departments, guiding them towards common objectives. Furthermore, implement regular communication channels through formal and informal meetings, such as quick-standing hurdles. This fosters dialogue and strengthens interdepartmental relationships.  Lastly, invest in training programs that emphasize cross-departmental understanding and skill development.  This is crucial for breaking down barriers and cultivating more cohesiveness amongst departments across your dealership.  A cohesive approach to sales, service, and support ensures a smoother experience for your customers, from initial inquiries to after-sales service.

Remember to prioritize customer service!  Exceptional customer service doesn’t end when the sale is made. Ensure your dealership has a dedicated customer service team equipped to handle inquiries, technical support, and service requests promptly and professionally.

Also, look to foster a culture of feedback.  Actively seek feedback from your customers regarding their experiences with your dealership and the aftermarket services provided. Whether through surveys, reviews, or direct communication, encourage customers to share their thoughts and suggestions for improvement. Use this feedback to identify areas of strength and areas for enhancement, demonstrating your commitment to continuous improvement and customer-centricity.

I’m not saying internal processes, optimization, and employee engagement aren’t important, but they need to be balanced with an outward focus on customers, market trends, competition, and innovation. To excel against competitors, your dealership must balance internal optimization with customer service. While internal processes are crucial for efficiency, they shouldn’t overshadow the main goal:  providing exceptional service to customers.  Adopting an outward mindset positions your business for long-term success and ensures you remain relevant and competitive in this ever-changing industry.

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.