A Baker's Dozen Rules for World Class Dealers - Customer Service
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A Baker's Dozen Rules for World Class Dealers

By Christine Corelli

Article Date: 07-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

There are no secret handshakes; no passwords; and no dues into the club of what I call World Class Dealers. Nor are there guarantees, but the odds of success improve among the dealers who not only acknowledge but embrace and practice these fundamental principles – which I offer more as reminders than lessons. If gone are the days of easy, effortless sales (and they are), then present are the days of skill-sharpening, eye-opening, customer-cunning agility for North American distributor survivors.
1.)  The Customer Rules!
You’ve heard this all-too familiar mantra before. But it warrants repeating, as ultimately, the customer will decide to what extent you will succeed in today’s challenging marketplace. If your entire dealer organization doesn’t excel in every aspect of the customer experience, customers will take their buying power elsewhere. Period.
2.)  Establish a Reputation for Service Excellence
If you’re not providing exceptional customer service, then you’re just providing service – and that doesn’t set you apart from your competition. Regardless of the size of your company, your main goal is to make every single encounter the customer has with your company undeniably better than that provided by your competitors. Consider what is needed: a minor improvement, complete culture transformation, or a major strategic initiative that will put your company in the lead.
3.)  Just Start Helping!
Start with your sales team. The impressions formed by them on the phones and in the field are largely responsible for developing your reputation. Remind them to project integrity, class, and professionalism with every customer interaction. But refrain from ever “badmouthing” your competitors.
Remind them that selling is helping. Instruct them to contact your most desirable prospects and ask questions that will uncover their problems. Then, tell them to just start helping these prospects as if they already are customers. In fact, they should help by making suggestions, providing ideas, and offering solutions to their problems – even when there’s nothing in it for them. Why? Because very often it pays back tenfold.
4.)  Present with Panache
World Class dealers deliver new machinery as if they are unveiling a million dollar piece of artwork. Many allow three hours for the delivery. The owner and operator are present, as well as a dealer technician. A small but meaningful gift is presented to both, and breakfast or lunch is brought in. One hour is spent discussing equipment operation. The next hour is spent on equipment maintenance. The last hour is spent on safety. If additional time is needed, the customer has their complete attention.
5.)  After-the-Sale Follow-up Process
After the delivery, a “Customer Care” follow-up process is applied. Later that day, the salesperson phones to ask if the customer has any further questions. A personal, handwritten note is sent to thank them for their business, with the business cards of the sales person and the service manager enclosed. Two days after that, another call is made, asking how they like the features of the machine. And one week later, another call is made by both the sales person and the service manager to inquire if there are any questions, or if any further help is needed. “We’re always here if you need us,” is the constant message customers hear.
6.)  Be Showroom Sharp
World Class dealers know that the appearance of their place of business – both outside and inside – forms an immediate impression on customers. How is the outer appearance of your building and property? Is it immaculate? How are customers greeted when they walk in?  Are they approached by someone with an extended hand, firm handshake, and a “Hi, I’m John. How can I help you today?” Or do they simply hear, “Can I help you?”
How neat is your service area? Is everything clean and orderly? Is your tool room well organized? Walk through this week and see for yourself.
7.)  Have a Service Department that Shines
Today, more than ever, the “service” in your service department is critical to your success. After servicing equipment, the service manager discusses what has been done on the equipment with each customer. They end every conversation with this question: “Have I answered all of your questions for you?” Then, they state, “I’m always here for you. Let me know if I can ever help you in any way. Thank you, Mr. Customer.”
He or she takes the time to call every customer to inquire on the level of service they received overall. While that is not always possible for busy service managers, a CEO – Customer Experience Officer – steps in to help out. (This is usually an office manager or an assistant to the GM who possesses strong interpersonal skills and acts as the dealer ambassador.)
While revenues from service are crucial to your business, when a customer is purchasing their parts from you, train your service staff to talk customers through fixing their own equipment whenever possible, and remind them to be patient with the do-it-yourselfers. Let them know that if they are handy with a wrench, “Our service managers will treat you like one of our own.”
8.)  Have What the Customer Wants and a Parts Hotline
Your parts department should be able to do whatever it takes to keep your customers up and running. If you can afford to have a large number of parts in your inventory, the odds are that you have what they need. Take it a step further and add pricing for easy online ordering. Make sure you have a hotline, and a parts staff that is available to monitor the phones from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Your customers should be able to rely on you for prompt, professional service at the most competitive price.
9.)  Hot Line to the Prez?!
World Class dealer organizations have a 24-hour hotline that goes to an individual who is responsible for any problem that develops. One dealer president even takes this a step further. If the hotline is not answered in three rings, the call automatically goes to his private cell phone, which he keeps on 365/24/7. Now that’s dedication! It’s also World Class service.
10.)Welcome and Document Complaints
You received a complaint? World Class dealers welcome them and thank their customers for bringing issues to their attention. They apologize sincerely. Then, they document them for a monthly review by the executive team to make decisions on any changes that need to be made. The goal is to provide a consistently great and flawless customer experience by being proactive on addressing and preventing complaints.
11.)  Fix It Quick!
Correct mistakes quickly and smoothly. If a new machine breaks down for whatever reason, fix it fast, or replace it. This costs money. But if you don’t do it, you can’t become known for World Class service. Errors, such as mistakes in billing, can happen. Rectify them with an apology and a graceful comment such as, “I’m so sorry this happened. Let’s fix it immediately.” Carry out remedial action promptly.
12.)  Set Up a System
What gets measured gets attention. World Class dealers have a system for customer service excellence measurement. Once a year, they send surveys to measure customer satisfaction in areas most important to the customer. Knowledge provided, consistency of communication, and more are measured. They also measure customer retention rates, response times, and number of complaints. Determine what measures are important to your customers and make your people accountable for improving them.
13.)  Bite the Bullet and Go Green
The green movement is not going away. World Class dealers know this, and recognize that any efforts they make are not only good PR, it’s just the right thing to do for the planet. Your customers already have to, and now it’s your turn.

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