Last year, we worked with the Equipment Dealers Assn. (EDA) to share the results of its Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey with our 14,000-plus print subscribers of Farm Equipment, a report that we’re in the middle of right now for the 2017 edition.
For those of you not familiar with it, EDA surveys equipment dealers each winter to rate the manufacturers whose products they represent. The deliverable is a well-organized report from EDA that provides comparative scores of 12 criterion that are most meaningful to equipment dealers.
I’ve long been interested in peer-rated surveys and, in this case, a once-a-year report card on the manufacturers’ performance, instead of the more common “one-way street” communications.
After becoming more familiar with the survey last year, and numerous emails and phone calls with Joe Dykes, EDA vice president of industry relations, I was given greater access to the data that EDA collected through the surveying process.
This blog is my thoughts and musings (not the EDA’s), and I can tell you this. Any manufacturer worth its salt should not only invest in the comprehensive EDA report, but assign staff to carefully study it and benchmark themselves vs. the leaders. And of course, study the candid — though fully anonymous — dealer comments (one OEM drew 53 write-ins). Tell your manufacturers that they should contact Dykes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your manufacturers say they can’t open their wallet for the report, what they’re really telling you is that their distribution network isn’t THAT important, no matter what their VPs like to say when the cameras and mics are rolling.
EDA’s survey is not perfect, and I’ve seen the practical challenges as I’ve dug in. But the relative rankings tell a story, and trends don’t lie.
There are some executives at farm equipment manufacturers (Case IH, New Holland and Kinze to name a few) who could learn something by poring over these results and looking in the mirror. (Remember the moral of The Emperor’s New Clothes?) One longtime dealer principal told me certain manufacturers’ repeated poor scores are not surprising. “There is dissension among the ranks,” he says.
But, with humility appearing to yield to hubris at rapid rate these days, the cynic in me senses the corner offices may miss the point. I can imagine a few common scenarios. Red-faced bitch sessions that will spur angry calls (as the messenger, we know our phone will ring). Assigning a master-degreed statistician to pick apart the methodology so it can be dismissed outright. Or the worst reaction of all ... none whatsoever, and a continued ignorance of reality vs. what could be learned.
On the other side, I know one manufacturer that I know is sincere about its shortcomings and made a strong commitment this year where they thought they could up their game. And when I saw how far AGCO has come over the last 3 years (AGCO actually moved past Case IH for the #3 spot among full-line manufacturers) I reached out to Shawn Skaggs, president/COO, Livingston Machinery Co., Chickasha, Okla. A member of the AGCO Dealer Panel, Skaggs says he knows AGCO pays attention to the survey because the results have been discussed in its Dealer Panel meetings. “I’m confident that faring well on these surveys is one of their internal goals,” he adds. “Many of the other manufacturers we work with also pay attention to these surveys, but their approach has more to do with asking for good scores than with pursuing positive changes for their network.”
Clint Schnoor, president of Agri-Service, Kimberly, Idaho, adds, “It’s hard to say if AGCO kicked up its game or Case IH fell behind.” But he did say a clear change of tune from ACGO was seen at the 2016 dealer meeting in New Orleans where top execs Martin Richenhagen and Bob Crain rallied dealers of all sizes, and subsequently restructured their field structure accordingly, a move that Schnoor says has been profound.
An on-the-ball manufacturer will also inquire about their position relative to other brands. They should be asking what it is about a Bourgault or Vermeer (the top-performing shortline manufacturers) that makes them easier or more desirable to do business with. Remember, there once was a day (before the days of “big-timing” their dealers), when manufacturers genuinely wanted to know how they and their dealers could perform better.
The influence of this study, undertaken on your behalf by your national association, is largely what you make of it. You can keep attention on it, and remind manufacturers that some problems don’t reside on your island alone. And the next time your OEM is crawling up your backside on share of wallet or your lack of new wholegoods orders, you can politely remind them of where they too can step up their performance for mutual benefit.
Watch for Farm Equipment’s analysis and coverage in the July/August print edition of Farm Equipment, including the 3-year trend picture of gainers/losers.