Traveling around FWEDA’s territory, I’ve spoken with dealers across six of seven states about the many challenges they face. Among the most significant is the impact legislative policies can have on the operation and profitability of dealership organizations.

Particularly concerning is “Right-to-Repair.” Thirty years ago, we called the drivers of this movement “Shade Tree Mechanics.” They were usually original equipment manufacturer (OEM) authorized dealer mechanics who received education, skills training and worked with a customer base built by the dealership. They left and went into direct competition with their former employers. It was partially addressed with non-compete clauses, which typically meant working for another dealership, not self-employment.

Today, there are numerous places one can go to find videos of the steps to repair many different types of equipment and vehicles across industries. Therefore, it’s important to educate customers about what distinguishes an authorized dealer as the best place to take their business to purchase, maintain and repair equipment. Unlike most consumer electronics and goods, the purchase of agricultural and other heavy equipment is just the beginning of a long-term business relationship, which customers weigh heavily in making their buying decisions.

Here are steps dealers can take to promote a positive customer experience:

Educate Your Employees

Do your parts counter salesman promote your service department? I have personally completed a secret shopper campaign of more than 250 dealerships. When I’ve purposely asked for an item that I know requires special tools and industry specifications, fewer than 2 percent of dealerships suggested I talk with the service department or mentioned the need for special tools and specifications to make a repair. In speaking with a parts and service manager at a large multi-dealership operation about “right-to-repair” he responded that he was pretty sure the parts and service guys don’t even know what it means. Educating your employees to communicate with customers about why a job requires special tools, specifications and skills that only your service department can offer, lets customers know you’re saving them time and money by having their equipment repaired correctly and to industry standards.

Create Employee Ambassadors

Do your parts counter salesmen and your service technicians promote your service inspection programs? A great way to help develop a good customer relationship is to educate them about your inspection program and the benefit of having their equipment ready when they need it — promote the value of less downtime. I was secret shopping a dealer and asked for the price of a complete set of round baler belts. The salesman told me he would look up the price but took me back to the service manager so he could explain their baler service inspection program. Engaging your employees to promote your service department not only increases parts and service sales, but also builds trust with your customer and reduces the chances they will seek out a “right-to-repair” option.

Empower Your Customer

There are some proactive dealership organizations working with their customers to provide them with the analytic tools and specifications to help them repair their own equipment. This is a highly productive way to move forward in an industry fraught with misinformation about what “right-to-repair” truly means when it comes to the equipment dealers sell and service. The industry’s lack of qualified technicians coupled with remote locations where your customers do business often means dealerships are unable to respond quickly to their customers’ service needs. Being unable to respond quickly when your customers have a breakdown and need their equipment fixed immediately sends them in search of another solution. By proactively helping them diagnose and fix some of their minor breakdowns, you have established your dealership as the best one to work with, especially when they have a major breakdown. To start such a program, consult with your manufacturer.

Dealers can overcome challenges by finding the best solutions for their customers. Distinguishing your dealership from independent repair providers by quantifying the value of an authorized dealer’s investment in tools, technology and training to maintain and repair equipment is your competitive edge.

Shane Wilker, Dealer Development Consultant for Far West management and training for agricultural equipment dealerships, including 18 years as an Aftermarket Manager at South Dakota-based C & B Operations. Wilker owns The Shane Wilker Company (formerly The Training Aspect), supporting training and education for dealership employees and management to increase sales, improve service revenue recovery rates, decrease service rework, and improve company communication and culture. He has an Associate Degree in Business Management from Idaho State University. Reach Shane at 530.601.7991 or DlrDev@fwedaservices.com.

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