- Following the sale, the relationship between dealer and customer becomes entirely dependent on when the customer needs the dealer.
- Customer expectations are increasing as they become more tech savvy.
- Shifting the dealership into being a solution provider creates a more proactive relationship between it and the customer.
- The best way to change the dealership into being more customer focused is through creating a vision for the dealership and working toward it.
Within agriculture and construction, the equipment used can be very different from one another. Carrie Roider, CEO of Erb Equipment, an 8-store John Deere construction equipment dealer, notes this early on in her presentation during the Western Equipment Dealers Assn. (WEDA) International Dealers Conference in Scottsdale Ariz. What Roider points out is that regardless of the type of equipment in a dealership, all dealers have the same goal: driving sales, uniting the dealership and satisfying the customer.
“Our equipment might be different, some of our issues might be a little bit different, some of our words may be different, but when we get down to the crux of it, we’re still all driving down the same river.”
Roider furthers this point by talking about what it means to be a service provider and a solution provider, citing Amazon as the ideal example. Amazon has set the standard for service and has figured out how to be a solution provider as well, according to Roider. The company has consolidated a number of suppliers under its name and added free shipping, music, video streaming and photo storage with Prime membership.
“Most importantly, Amazon has figured out that our real desire isn’t for the goods that we’re buying,” says Roider. “It’s really for the convenience that they give us and the time that they save us, all from the comfort of our couch.”
With dealerships, they are structured to be there when the customer needs it. There is a proactive interaction that takes place during the sale followed by a waiting period, says Roider. This is because the relationship between customer and dealer becomes transactional after the sale and is entirely based on the customer’s needs.
“When we get down to the crux of it, we’re still all driving down the same river……”
“During the support phase, the dealership is viewed as a necessary evil by the customer,” says Roider. “All the while, the dealer prides themselves on the hoops they jump through to meet that customer’s immediate need and satisfy their last-minute support.”
There is shared relief after each customer and then the next customer comes along and the cycle repeats. This leads to burnt out employees. If you take this and add in the fact that customer demands and expectations are increasing as they become more tech savvy, the risk increases. Customers want more for less and are looking for dealerships to be like Amazon, Roider says.
She does note that customers want dealerships to be successful because if the dealership is not, then the customer’s needs are not met. “The solution our customers really want are the ones that increase their productivity and lower their risk.”
The question Roider poses is: What if your dealership could focus on being a solution provider?
According to Roider, when the shift is made to be a solution provider, the organization can be reimagined. Becoming a solution provider creates a proactive relationship with the customer with the goal of placing what is most important to the customer at the forefront. In order for dealers to provide the best solutions and plans to customers, they will need to dip into their dealer toolbox.
Some of the items that can be found in the dealer toolbox include:
- Preventative Maintenance (PM) agreements
- Equipment Selection Assistance
- Block Labor
- Machine Assurance Plans
- Machinery Rebuild Options
- Machine Technology Assistance
- Machine Monitoring
- Customer Training
Each person and dealership’s toolbox are different. What Roider believes to be most important is that a dealer brings a proactive approach to the customer.
“Not all customers are looking for these solutions,” she says. “But for those customers who want solutions to issues … if you could deliver a larger portfolio of solutions to those customers that eliminates their risk and provides them with productivity, isn't that the real solution our customers are looking for?”
“The solution our customers really want are the ones that increase their productivity and lower their risk……”
Roider believes customers will pay for solutions that eliminate risk and increase productivity. This means the biggest change a dealership needs to make is in having a proactive, customer-focused approach.
“You need a vision of who you are and who you want to be,” she says. “This vision creates clarity around why you exist, how you behave and what you do.”
Taking this vision and expanding it into the future will help to develop solutions and align the organization to the desired values. This vision, according to Roider, is driven best by a leadership team that that trusts ones another. This means having people who can communicate well, are willing to engage in productive conflict and willing to hold one another accountable.
Most importantly, the leaders and managers of a dealership needs to be able to put the dealership’s goals ahead of individual department goals. Departments have to work together in providing solutions for customers. In focusing on placing the customer first, the whole dealership is guaranteed to profit.