Does Your Software Make the Grade? - Aftermarket
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Does Your Software Make the Grade?

By Ron Slee

Article Date: 02-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Parts and service people responding to customer calls need more information at their fingertips.

Every now and then it is good to give your software a check-up. Too often, we do a review of software, or in some cases let our equipment suppliers make recommendations, only when we are changing packages or computer hardware.

But is that sufficient? The world around us is changing, customer needs change, employee skills change, information needs change. Former GE CEO Jack Welsh is famous for saying, “When the world changes faster than you do...the end is near.”

Reviewing the software tools in use and pushing your suppliers to keep you productive and relevant in your market is a very important thing to do – and keep the so-called “end” at bay!

Let’s look at three different conditions and situations:

Abnormal Demand and Customer Service Information
When a customer calls in and orders six of a certain part number and you have four on hand, what do you do? Does your system tell you on the same screen how many of each of those parts fit on the machine in question? Does it tell you that you have sold only two of those parts in the past 12 months? That this customer returns half of the parts that they order? That there is a backorder outstanding for this customer?

I am sure many software suppliers will say that the information is in the system. I suspect they’re right, but is the system pushing that relevant information to the person serving your customer? This level of convenience to your personnel is an opportunity for software companies to provide you with a significant competitive boost.

Buyer Habits – Purchase Size and Mean Time Between Sales
Many significant advances have been made in marketing information over the past 20 to 30 years. Most of us have heard that the suppliers know more about their customers than the customer would be happy knowing – from how much they spend and where they spend it, to their payment patterns.

Market segmentation has been a subject of several of my columns over the years, yet we still don’t have key information tools given to the people serving the customer when the customer calls in to the dealership. I know there are exceptions, but as a rule the only thing that is received in the parts sales process or the service work order open is the billing name and address, and credit conditions. No customer purchase size, machine population, order frequency, time between orders, or anything else for that matter.

Again, software suppliers have an opportunity to provide convenience to their customers (the dealership’s customer-contact personnel) so that the dealership customer can be better served.

Labor Efficiency – Schedules and Labor Variance
One of the most important things to any customer of the dealer service department is response time. In fact, this has become the No. 1 issue over the past five years, even trumping price. But what does the scheduling module for the service department look like from the software suppliers?

  • Can the work order be segmented into discrete units of work?
  • Is there a scheduled time for each segment?
  • Is there a completion date for each segment and work order?
  • Is the performance of individual mechanics measured against “flat rate” time?
  • Is the variance for the labor performance on a work order measured?
These are all pretty simple questions, and they represent an opportunity for the software suppliers in our industry to help dealers achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction. This is significant because the service department has the weakest market capture rate of any department within the dealership. The right tools, however, can lead to more customers coming back. And don’t forget, customer retention is the most significant driver of dealer profitability.

What can and should we do?
First of all, we have to raise the bar internally. We need several things to happen – all of the time.

  • How about getting machine model and serial number on all parts sales orders?
  • How about maintaining an accurate machine population for customers, all of the time?
  • How about conducting inspections on all service work before starting the labor?
There is a lot to do, and even though these are challenging and financially difficult times, now is the time to do it. Everyone will see the benefit and will work to make these all happen.

It’s not a matter of if we should do this, but when. There’s no better time to rally the troops and become more effective at everything we do that touches the customer.

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Article Categories:  Management  »  Product Support