Customer Loyalty for Today’s Heavy Equipment Dealers
Your father was a heavy equipment dealer and you followed in his footsteps to continue the family business. For over thirty years, your family has served fleet managers and independent customers earning a reputation for quality, responsive service.
It’s this integrity that has created longstanding relationships and helped to expand your region. In the past, your customers would sooner go out of business themselves before they would switch colors.
But over the past several years, you’ve noticed a change. New, younger owners are taking over the businesses you deal with. They care less about relationships and more about downtime and the bottom line. You understand and even respect their need to protect their businesses, but you struggle to establish the loyalty you once knew. What do you need to do to ensure you’re delivering the level of service they require?
A primary goal of manufacturers and dealers in the heavy equipment industry is to create customers for life. Where this used to be possible from establishing long-term relationships through quality customer care, the customer of today’s dealerships demands more to retain their business.
Knowledge is King
Field engineers are expected to be knowledgeable, not just about the equipment they are servicing, but about the customer’s business itself. What sort of projects are they working on? What are their key project deadlines? Who are their most valued customers? Depending on the size of the dealership and territory, this information may be tribal knowledge that should be shared for all service workers to use when visiting a customer. Why? A customer who has purchased a $1.5 million dollar piece of equipment should not have to explain what’s important to them, and they know it.
Sensitivity to Downtime
Fair pricing is a must. Customers of some brands – John Deere, for example in the farming equipment sector, are willing to pay more because of the longstanding reputation of quality and high resale. However, they also demand limited to nonexistent downtime of their equipment and hold the dealer accountable if they are not able to maintain operations because of sluggish response time or lack of parts availability.
Getting Ahead of the Game
Predictive service is becoming more of a requirement for OEMs and dealers to head off any potential downtime. Strains on the workforce to find quality engineers who can be more versatile in their abilities to perform maintenance, warranty work and repairs onsite are putting additional stress on dealers. Field engineers must be able to manage multiple responsibilities and the dealers must ensure that they’re prepared with the information they need to complete jobs quickly and on the first visit.
Automation to Address Challenges
To relieve the stress associated with meeting these demands, dealers are beginning to automate their field service operations. Doing so provides field workers access to detailed customer job history to ensure they are prepared to have an informed conversation with their customers, saving time and building confidence with them.
Once the job is assigned to them, they can ensure they have the right parts to complete the work requested. And once onsite, the field worker can speak of the work previously performed and based upon that customer history, advise their customer. This helps to position the dealership as a partner in their success.
Dealerships can empower customer by helping them to understand the equipment they’re using. Seeing a detailed account of assets onsite, field engineers may provide documents to them or direct them to an online support video library so they may troubleshoot their equipment before calling to report a problem. Should the customer still need to call for repairs, they can provide more detailed information to the service desk. This enables the customer, then, to help the dealer in his or her own success. The result is a high first-time fix rate, low customer churn and higher customer loyalty.
Customer loyalty for today’s heavy equipment dealer is about more than established relationships. Now dealers are expected to maintain more than just good rapport with their customers. Technology, which includes field service automation, enables dealers to provide the responsive, yet personable, level of service required to still keep their customers for life.
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