Where Should We Begin? #MondayBlogs

I often say that life is simple, and people make it complicated.

The same is true of our processes and procedures – they can be simple, unless we make it complicated.

Let’s first review one thing I know to be true: everyone wants to do a good job.  No one wakes up in the morning, excited to go to work and do a terrible job.  Everyone wants to succeed and do a good job.

But one key to doing a good job, is KNOWING what we need to do.  This crucial piece applies across ALL industries, it applies to our professional lives and, frankly, it applies to our personal lives as well.  In order to succeed, we need to know what has to be done.

When it comes to repairs for our customers, our Work Order Process has a series of simple steps for us to use to determine what must take place in order to meet the needs of our customer base.

I hope you enjoy this small video tutorial on the beginning of the Work Order Process.

The time is now.

Product Support Selling

Our seminar on Product Support Selling – The New Frontier is coming up in Dallas, Texas on April 15 and 16, 2015.  This 2 day seminar encompasses 4 elements:

  • The fundamentals of selling
  • The foundation of territory management
  • Managing Customer Relationships
  • Customer Service Fundamentals

This program is geared towards Product Support Sales, Customer Service, Instore Sales, Supervisors,  and Managers.

This course covers all the theories and applications necessary for Product Support Selling in the 21st Century.

The time is now.

Parts Management – Customer Service

What Drives Good Customer Service

Attracting, developing, sustaining, and retaining customers is the key to profitability.

In the world of customer service, we seem to be saying one thing and doing something different. We don’t walk our talk. But we are not alone as a group of service providers who are interested in what our customers need and want. This has become an epidemic in industries worldwide.

Microsoft commissioned a major survey back in 2007 as well. Its conclusion was that the number one business issue for service providers was “customer relationships.”

The survey noted: “They value innovations that support improvement in the customer experience, and they paint a picture of corporate cultures that prioritize customers.”

The survey conclusion also asked, “Why is it that their actions don’t support this belief?”

This is a similar conclusion that I reach in my consulting business. When intellectually we know what needs to be done, why is it we just don’t get it done?

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This might be a cute comment, were it not so serious. The world has clearly changed. Products are much more capable and technology is definitely influencing how they can be used. The opportunities for clients to obtain products and services from a variety of suppliers have never been so numerous. How will we defend ourselves and protect our customers from competition?

We have a serious need to provide much better training, technology, and tools to our employees, especially the ones we charge with the responsibility of satisfying customers in the parts and service groups. Without good system information, these critical employees are dead in the water.

And so far, we haven’t provided them with much good information. Many times the first question we have to ask the customer in parts support or service inquiries is, “Who are you?”

How friendly is that opening for a discussion with a potential consumer? Does it bolster a “customer relationship”? I think not. Go back to the conclusion from the Microsoft survey and note the “innovations that support improvement in the customer experience.” What have you done over the past year to enhance the customer experience in your business? More importantly, what are you planning now?

My suspicion is there was nothing in the plan last year and this is not a subject included in many of your businesses’ annual planning cycles. You know that process, don’t you?When you set budgets and create forecasts. This planning cycle needs to be focused on the customer experience, not only on your profit and loss. Companies that focus inwardly are destined to fail. It is the company that focuses on keeping their customers happy that will succeed.

Let’s look at the top focuses of the companies surveyed in the Microsoft survey.

It is very clear and straightforward to me, and I am sure to you as well. The view of the market in 2009 is cloudy and mixed at best. We might have a somewhat brighter outlook based on the more environmentally sensitive mood in the country, but the economic outlook is much more difficult than at any other time in my experience.

Yet I know that parts and service business opportunities will increase. I also know that you know your opportunity to increase business in the parts and service area is huge. But I also think it is clear you either don’t know what to do or don’t want to do it. That is a difficult position to be in, isn’t it? The customer expects us to provide leadership to them. They expect us to provide the support they require for their needs.

So do yourself and your customers a favor and ask what they want you to do for them. Don’t be shy. They will willingly tell you what it is they want and need. But be careful. If you ask and they tell you, then you will have to act. If you don’t act, you will be in more trouble than if you hadn’t asked at all.

Last month we looked at your most valuable service attribute as a business—your employees. This month we’ve looked at retaining your customers, the people who provide everything in your life.

Are you ready for the challenge? The market, your employees, and your customers wait for your answer.

Confessions of a Service Manager ~ Bill Pyles

We are introducing a new area for our blog. We are asking experienced Industry professionals to write on a subject that they think would be of interest to our followers.

Today, I am introducing Bill Pyles. Bill has 40 plus years in the OEM product support arena.

He worked for Caterpillar, Komatsu and John Deere dealers in various locations across the USA.

He has worked most, if not all, positions in Product Support from technician to Executive.

He still is actively engaged in the business and still thoroughly enjoys being a part of the equipment industry and looks forward to every new day.

Bill has been married for 42 years to his wife, Diana, and has two sons that are currently working in the OEM dealer world, one with a Cat dealer and one with a Deere dealer.  He is also fortunate enough to have five grandchildren.

Bill is also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Semper Fi.

I hope you enjoy, as I do, reading Bill’s thinking on a wide range of subjects over the weeks and months ahead. Welcome, Bill.

The Time is Now…

Confessions of a Service Manager

I’ve been working in Product Support most of my life.  Most of those 30 years have been primarily focused on service department product support.  I spent time as a shop mechanic, field mechanic, shop foreman and service manager.  I learned a lot during those years.  I learned:

  • How to move labor and material around on a work order to make the times look good.
  • How to avoid any lost time by charging time to sales, rentals, and used equipment.
  • How to handle warranties by sending a less-than-qualified mechanic because “it’s warranty” and it would be “good” training: and what the hell, the manufacturer is paying for it.
  • That if the boss’s hot button was “reduce training” or “reduce expenses,” you simply moved that time to building maintenance or repair of shop tools.  If expenses were high, you shifted them to cost of sales.
  • The importance of taking care of my customers first by letting the sales department wait and wait and wait.
  • That a two-week backlog was good: hey, three weeks was better.  Keeping this backlog ensured I would make my numbers for the month.  The customer would wait.
  • That you never sent work to another branch or even asked if another shop was slow.
  • That if I had a big job, I never called another store for help to take care of other jobs.  Remember the “backlog.”
  • There was never enough time in the day, so when vendors delivered oxygen and acetylene bottles, bolts, nuts, shop supplies there was no need to check the delivery before signing the delivery ticket.  Nothing ever “falls off the back of the truck.”
  • That sales, rental or used equipment never received any warranty on shop or field repairs.  Remember the “budget.”
  • How to sandbag monthly sales.  If we meet budget this month, hold off any more billing until next month.  I have a budget to make then, too.
  • Never to call a customer for additional work a machine needed, while the machine was down.  He’d yell at me if I suggested additional work needed to be done.  It was always easier to say nothing and if the machine failed after it left the shop, he’d call me.
  • If a machine was coming in for a final drive repair, I’d order ever nut, bolt and gear and air freight them in.  I might need them and if I don’t, the parts department will just put them back on the shelf.  No big deal.

During those times, life was good.  My numbers looked good.  I had a backlog, and the boss was off my back.

Then I became a Manager.

Then I became a General Service Manager and was included in management meetings I never knew existed.  I discovered there were other departments challenged to be efficient and profitable – just like me – and unless all departments worked together, it would not happen.

  • It took a little while, but I began to realize why the sales manager was not always so willing to let me have a loaner for a service job I screwed up.  Those labor hours I was writing off to sales, rental and used were actually showing up on his P&L!
  • Those new, used and rental machines were expensive assets that I kept putting to the back of the schedule so I could take care of my customers.  I didn’t know the company was missing opportunities and thousands of dollars because we had no machines to rent or sell.
  • I learned warranty training was expensive.  Those dollars actually came back in the form of warranty expense.  You mean the manufacturer didn’t pay for 10 hours of labor to replace a fuel filter?
  • I discovered the time I invested swapping labor and material around did nothing for the actual bottom line.  What?  I spent hours doing that!
  • I learned a backlog was good but a satisfied customer was better.  I’d visit customers and ask why he sent a machine to another company.  Usually the answer was “Bill, you guys do good work and I don’t mind even paying a little more for good work, but I can’t wait three or four weeks every time my machine goes into the shop.”
  • So I learned to work the overtime when required.  I learned to ask other shops for help and sometimes I even suggested the customer send the machine to another branch that could get him in and out the quickest.  SOmetimes I even offered to pay the additional hauling to get him there!
  • I learned things do “fall off the back of a truck.”  Have you ever been offered a deal too good to be true?  Hey, it fell off the back of a truck.  I went through an audit after the company decided to change oxygen and acetylene vendors.  The vendor came in and did an audit on all the bottles we rented over the years.  We could not come up with $6,500 worth of rented bottles.  They must be lying all over America’s highways.
  • I learned if I didn’t contact a customer for needed additional work, the machine would leave the shop (“Hey, I did what he asked!”) and would fail soon after – on the job.  The first thing I’d hear would be, “It just left your %#@*&% SHOP!” – and I should have called him and fixed it then.
  • I learned that the boatload of parts I ordered for the final drive repair and returned to parts created a lot of expense.  No one told me there were shipping and emergency charges, and we didn’t stock the part because there was no demand.  I learned those expenses were showing up on the parts manager’s P&L.
  • I found out someone had to take the time to do the parts entry, place the order, receive it into inventory, carry it to the shop, pick it up after I returned it and create another return ticket.  They they’d create a location in the warehouse (remember, we did not stock it), and let it sit until the next authorized parts return when the company might get 50 cents on the dollar!  Wow, no wonder when I asked for help on a disputed service invoice, I’d get a cold stare from the parts manager.

The Old and the New

My point (yes, there is a point to all of this) is there are two types of service management – the old and the new.  The old type will not survive at today’s distributorship.  Managers who think like that are being replaced with managers who are concerned with the entire company’s health, not just the service department.

The new service managers are discovering that working together – sales, parts and service – makes a much more enjoyable job.  Time spent hiding expenses rather than addressing the issue is a complete waste of time.  The real cause of the expense is never removed or identified and swapping time becomes routine and a drain on your time.

Direct and constructive communication with other department managers is key to making our company successful, profitable and raising customer satisfaction.  Believe it or not, it starts with the service department!

You can connect with Bill on LinkedIn at  www.linkedin.com/pub/bill-pyles/12/a24/7ab

Friday Filosophy v2013-36

The only real training for leadership is leadership.

Anthony Jay

Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe in you.

Cynthia Kersey

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

C.S. Lewis

The time is now…..

Change Mangement v1.3

The New Reality is spawning all manner of changes in our world. Over the past thirty some years with the advent of the personal computer, for “data processing” and the internet, for “networking” and the smart phone, for “your wallet” the personal liberation revolution is in full bloom.

Since the Industrial Revolution the only manner in which a Company could “scale up productivity and profit” was by treating customers as populations instead of individuals. This has become magnified with CRM systems. Customer Relationship Management requires the use of market segmentation with became a serious exercise in the 1980’s and has become perfected since. The only way that this can be challenged is by empowering the individual.

From loyalty cards, started by service stations and oil companies in the fifties and sixties, to airline frequent flyer clubs the customer gives up their personal history every time they use a product or service. This is being turned on its head by the PC and tablets, the internet and the smart phones or PDA’s. Individuals are started to obtain the same power.

Now we see the arrival of a new thought VRM. Vendor Relationship Management where the customer truly does become “king.”

Imagine your “smart phone” where your network supplier AT&T, Sprint. T-Mobile or Verizon “lock” you up on two year contracts. That aberration in individual liberty will soon be extinct. Similarly marketeers will no longer be using words like “acquire” or “control” or manage” or “lock in” when they talk about customers. Are we the ultimate “round up?”

No with this new idea VRM the customer will regain control as if we were back to the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. You will shop with a PDA and be able to pass your information on to a Vendor only at your discretion. There will be implicit “contracts” of information and personal privacy. This will start more seriously as Microsoft requires the DNT (Do No Track) features will be turned on in the new Internet Explorer and that “Ad Blockers” become even more popular as with Chrome and Firefox. Ad blockers and more common in Europe today but that is fast changing.

The new marketers will have to find a new game won’t they? This new marketer will recognize the Service-Dominant aspect of their world. That relationships are a choice of a customer not the whim of a supplier. The time is now.

Data Mining – Statistics Revisited

One of the useful attributes of a VoIP system is the ability to choose the important elements of information about a client that you want to appear on the screen as the phone is ringing. Of significance might be the date of last contact, date of sale, type of sale, and value of sale. From the probability discussion yesterday this will help you determine when the next sales transaction should take place. It might help how you approach the discussion. The time is now..


Many of you already know of my requirement for an inspection prior to any work being performed on equipment needing repairs.

The customer makes known to us what they have as their complaint. This reasonably standard operating procedures. They call or come in and tell us what they want done. Many of you also know that I draw a comparison between the medical community and the equipment repair community. We at the dealership are the doctor and the machine is the patient.

The diagnostic inspection necessary to determine the “cause” of the complaint is similar to the blood work and vital signs that the doctor will require of you prior to making any determination of the treatment necessary to “correct” your complaint. They will be seeking out hte cause.

Once we have the cause of the complaint the correction is the easy part. The time is now…

Selling Skills Part Four

The first last time we talked about the six steps in selling we identified them all. The last time we communicated was on the first step – research. Let’s dig a little deeper into the second one.

  1. Objectives

Well after having completed all the research on each customer in their assigned territory the sales professional is now ready for the next step. That is setting objectives for each and every one of their customers for each and every commodity of parts as well as each and every service program offered.

This also involves some research. The parts purchases should follow the opportunity calculated for each customer based on the machine population, hours of work per year and the application. This is also true for the service programs.

When reviewing the customer purchases against the opportunity for each account the sales professional will identify where there are parts or service programs that the customer does not purchase at the levels that the opportunity presents. This is normally an indication that competition has penetrated this customer for some of their products or services. The diligent salesmen determines who gets the business and who the customer likes about this supplier and develops a plan to combat that competitive advantage.

This leads the sales professional to have a specific series of objectives for each customer which will allow them to have a purpose for each call. This purpose is to save the customer money, improve machine availability of some other tangible benefit to the customer. Having a purpose for each call and objectives to strive to achieve makes a difference in the success of sales personnel. The time is now…..

Selling Skills Part Three

Last time we talked about the six steps in selling. Let’s dig a little deeper into the first one.

  1. Research

Within research there are three more points to cover.

a)      The Customer

b)      The Products of Service

c)       The relationship.

Customer: For researching the customer we need to know everything and anything that might be significant. In the Capital Goods Industries this means specifically the equipment that the customer owns. The make model and serial number of every piece of equipment; the hours of use of each unit and the applications; any special attachments or configurations on each unit. This is what determines the opportunity. The consumption of parts and service is dependent on the hours of use and the application.

Then we need to have a complete customer profile; family circumstances and birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies, etc. A company profile; in what industries they work (SIC codes); type of business, years in business, number of employees, influential, etc.

The Products or Services: This is the full features and benefits area. This has become a lost art for many people in sales. I think this is extremely important. It allows you to separate yourself from the competition. It allows you to sell value if you have this knowledge. I also think it is important knowledge such that you will be able to “position” your offering rather than making a presentation which can become stale and sound canned.

The Relationship: This is the purchase history of the customer with your company. What they buy and what they don’t buy. How the purchases relates to the potential – this for both parts and service.

With these three stages completed in Research we can move onto the second step in the sales process. Good sales people are diligent in their research. It makes a difference in their success. The time is now…..