The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

With 20+ years of business system design and business intelligence experience, Dale Hanna founded Foresight Intelligence in 2009 to help leading equipment dealers achieve operational excellence and a sustainable competitive advantage through effective use of real time KPI’s throughout the organization. Recently, Dale has added telematics to his passion and is enjoying the challenge of making oceans of disparate data useful to manufactures, dealers, rental companies, and end customers.  Dale obtained a BSEE degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and has been engaged in many associations serving the equipment industry. In his first guest blog for Learning Without Scars, Dale writes about the hidden revolution taking place in the equipment industry.

Technology is driving a revolution in the equipment industry that we can easily see: grade control, idle tracking, fault codes, autonomous equipment, electrification, etc. While the advancements are amazing and will continue to be, dealers are noticing brand differentiation becoming more and more of a challenge. In this margin-conscious market, we see the battle of the future being fought on customer experience and we see technology is quietly but rapidly driving that revolution.

This hidden revolution is happening in all areas of dealership operations.  Today we focus on how technology is increasing efficiency and enhancing customer experience in the service area, especially during this time of unprecedented labor and parts shortage.

Below are strategies that are giving some equipment dealers a leg up:

 Increasing Trust from Your Customers

We all know trust is a vital ingredient in delivering a great customer experience.  If you are like me, I used to think building trust was an elusive and subjective endeavor.  Chris Voss, a lead FBI hostage negotiator, gave us a formula to build trust quickly and predictably:

Trust = Predictability.

A system that can be configured to your workflow to automatically notify customers at key milestones creates a predictable service experience every time without adding more work for your people.  Yes, UPS and FedEx have perfected this.  You know exactly where your packages are all the time and the moment they are delivered.  It is hard to imagine any shipping company being able to survive without it.  Our expectations for the service experience are quickly reaching the same level.

Doing Business at the Speed of Text

When we do not get an email response from someone, what do we do? We text. According to a research report, on average, people respond to a text in 90 seconds and an email in about 90 minutes.  Adding an integrated SMS (text) platform is like adding nitrous to your service engine.  A fully integrated text platform notifies your customers of progress, provides new quotes, gets instant sign off for additional work, shares inspection results and obtains satisfaction survey results at lightning speed. All the communication history is saved for future reference. With the busy schedule your customers have, who would not appreciate a faster ride?

Self Service Makes Happier Customers

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already happening – we want to do more things online, by ourselves, at whatever hours we want, without having to wait on anyone.  Providing information your customers need, in the forms they need, always accessible makes them feel informed and in control, both are important elements for happiness.  A robust dashboard, easy to use interface, searchable/sortable/exportable data and schedulable reports keep your customers smiling while your people sleep.

Have Your Process Your Way

A lot of service systems were built based on someone else’s ideas, usually from the first few customers the system makers had. Your workflow is what makes your people efficient, and your organization stand out. Today’s technology allows an effective system to adapt to you rather than the other way around. Dynamic dashboards by user and role, quick and easy work order assignment and tracking, Apps for field technicians to easily add comments, pictures/videos, inspections can be required and enforced as a part of your workorder process are all examples of how today’s systems serve you the way you do business.

We Are More Powerful When We Are Connected

So are data and systems. At dealerships, we still use multiple systems to get things done. The last thing we want to add is another siloed system. Any service system today should connect with your OEM system for fault codes, warranty information and even submission, your telematics system for real time dispatching, customer’s telematics system for asset location and hours, maintenance management system to organize all the maintenance plans you sold and your business system for cost and PO information. The more your systems are connected, the more efficient you become.

The current pandemic will end for sure, but our world has changed forever. If we look at carefully, there is an undeniable trend – tech rich companies have done better in general, some has done exceptionally well and taken sizeable market share from competitors during COVID 19. This trend is definitely here to stay. Technology is not only changing things we can see and buy, but it is also changing the way we perform and experience service. Customers will certainly buy more equipment, especially with the new infrastructure bill, and whoever delivers the best customer experience will have the bigger share.

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Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Learning Without Scars is pleased to introduce our new guest writer, Danny Slusarchuk. His first post for our blog is on Cyber Security Incident Response Planning. Danny Slusarchuk enjoys spending time with his family and being a productive member of the community. He serves on the Oklahoma Venture Forum (immediate past Chairman) and Oklahoma Innovative Technology Alliance boards. He leads the Oklahoma National Guard Defensive Cyberspace Operations Element. Danny founded Standards IT in 2012 and continues to be a managing partner at the headquarters in downtown Edmond. He has been recognized as 20 Edmond Business Leaders under 40 and was a recent Edmond’s Young Professional of the Year award recipient. Danny spoke most recently at the FBI’s Information Warfare Summit and has for 4 years running. This year he spoke at SECCON as well. He was a guest speaker for the Youth Leadership Edmond conference, 45th Field Artillery Brigade Honorable Order of Saint Barbara Dining Out. He was the keynote for Oklahoma Officer Candidate School Class 63.

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Let’s understand the why.

Your business is shut down for the foreseeable future and you don’t have the slightest idea how you are going to get back to the way you were operating yesterday. Your customers, employees, and even competitors know you have been hacked.  Someone in another country is extorting you for ten Bitcoin to maybe restore your precious data on their good word. To top it all off, your customers have brought a class action lawsuit against your negligent handling of their data.

Do not let that scenario play out solely on the bad actors’ terms.  It is possible to do everything right and still get hacked.  A living incident response policy and procedure accompanied by routine tabletop exercises and vulnerability assessments can be the difference between surviving and shutting your business down.

The Sans institution provided great cyber security training.  The incident response considerations in this post draw from their Global Certified Incident Handler curriculum.

Your plan should have input from all departments that require systems and data to operate.  I recommend you nest it with your cyber liability insurance policy and have it legally approved.

Now, if you were to pull out as much of the lingo as possible and boil it down to bullets here is how I would state it:

  • Identify the event (Intrusion Detection Software, Security Operations Center Notification, Individual Report, Litigation Notice) (each an “Event”)
  • Execute initial alert roster of Event and establish event timeline using “Event” document for record
  • Determine exposure (add additional resources if necessary and conclude as an IT Governance Council that the Event is contained and did not elevate to an “Incident”)
  • If Breach, exfiltration of data, or other harm is suspected to be probable elevate the Event to an Incident
  • Contact “Incident Response Legal Team” and “Cyber Forensics Team” (both appointed by the IT Governance Council)
  • Use IT Governance Council, Legal Team, and Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Council and establish Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Manager of the Council
  • Add additional technical resources, if needed, to manage the technical aspect of the Cyber Forensics effort and cyber defense
  • Track all time, keep running estimates of time and hardware required to maintain operations during the Incident Response
  • Add Crisis Public Relations Firm to the Council for internal and external talking points and press releases, if needed
  • Use cyber forensic evidence in court or to settle lawsuit and to submit claims to the insurance carrier
  • Notify customers and any injured parties, if necessary, pursuant to regulatory requirements
  • File incident with the FBI Cyber Crimes Complaint center, if appropriate
  • Complete “Incident Response” document(s) for record
  • Add technical controls to Cyber Security Risk Mitigation Matrix
  • Conduct an after-incident review with key personnel and distribute the IR for Record documentation

That was high level steps, and each has significance.  Overall, the concept is to prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recover, and realized lessons learned.  The steps also include adding one-time resources like forensics and crisis public relations.

In future posts I will explore specific sections covered in greater detail that will help educate the reasoning behind the order and specific terminology.  Cyber liability insurance is only good if it pays out when you need it for example.  Yes, there are some gotchas in choosing your protection.

References: https://www.sans.org/cyber-security-courses/hacker-techniques-incident-handling/

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer continues his exploration of the digital dealership. Part 1 of a series, tonight we look at strategic segmentation of your audience.

You customers are only a small part of your Audience

All of us have heard the term “audience” over the last few years.  Long gone is the past association of audience with something the queen granted or with sitcom television.  An audience is no longer a small group of people because the internet has grown everyone’s audience.

Yet, even with the automatic growth of everyone’s audience, many dealers don’t think about their audience as they build their digital dealership.  Many of us think about our customers as audience.   Customers come through the door, call our phones and send us emails.  Our customers work with us daily, weekly or monthly as they use the equipment they purchased, or are looking for newer equipment.   Still, our customers are only part of our audience, even if they are a small and important subgroup.

The broader concept of audience is important for us to consider in several ways.  It’s important first when planning our marketing, second in designing operations and finally in developing our strategy.   For this article let’s start with Strategy, since it lays the groundwork for the rest.

The first thing to think about is how will you define or identify your audience.  What groups of people and companies will you want to draw in and communicate with?   This will vary depending on the type of dealership you have, and will need to be adjusted, as you reconsider who your audience is.  This is called segmentation.

For example, for a few large, well-established dealers the audience tends to be fairly set.  It typically consists of all the users of their brand of equipment, in their territory.  Potentially it might only include those customers with accounts in the dealer’s business system.  Another example is a smaller farm and yard equipment dealership.  Here the number of interactions with each customer will be lower, and the dealership needs to find new customers constantly.   A strategic approach to audience segmentation will be different for both these example dealers, but for both, clearly defining it lays the ground work for their business.

To define a dealership’s focus audience, we need to determine what audience segments fit into your strategy.  Start with these 3 audience segments or categories.   How important is each to your business?

  1. Repeat or Existing Customers
  2. Prospect Customers
  3. Unknown Audience (This is typically where your new leads come from)

Next, consider where your audience members are.

Are they:   Local, Regional, National or even farther?  How far do you want to reach? How will your strategy differ for those near you and those far away?

With all the audience segments identified, and priority segments selected, we can create a strategy for each of them.

For each segment the dealership wants to reach, 4 main things must be considered.   First the message, next the communication channels and third the response method.  The final item to be considered is an important part of what makes your dealership the Digital Dealership, it is the integration of known audience information with each strategy.

In creating the strategy dealers need to think about the message.   This is often the product they want to communicate to each audience segment.  Is the product the machine, the dealer’s experience or something else?   Many dealers think they are selling equipment when a significant aspect of value is the dealership.  When communicating to unknown audience members, they merely provide the details of a machine in inventory, they forget to include the more important value the dealership brings.

The strategy should consider the channel for communication.   Dealers should understand what digital channels and platforms their target audience segments are on, where the audience will see or receive the message.  Channels include traditional communications, social media, email etc.  Depending on the product and the audience segment, different channels should be used.  Don’t use the same channel for everything and assume your message reaches the audience.

An often-forgotten aspect of communicating with the audience is the response method.   Typically, the faster the response from the dealer is the better.  Also, the response method should more closely matched the original communication method.  For example, if people are reading your email, they likely want to respond the same way.   We often see dealers mismatching the channel and the response method and seeing poor engagement.

Finally, before we can look at marketing and operations in the next article, we always need to consider the most important aspect of the Digital Dealership, the use of information. This starts by having clear strategies for each segment.  By using the information already known about the audience to fine tune the strategy, we get a much more targeted strategy.   For example, sending marketing campaigns to customers and prospect customers about a new backhoe, to customers known to have backhoes of a replacement age.   Image if your next email campaign started with “Hi Mets, because you currently own a 2012 Case 580SN, we’d like to share information on this 2017 CAT 430F.

In my next article I’ll continue and look specifically at Marketing and advertising to segmented audiences.  I’ll also post a work sheet for your dealership to work through to get started.

Mets Kramer

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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From Paper to Glass

From Paper to Glass

In a recent Podcast with Alex Schuessler, we were talking about technology and the changes that have taken place in the marketplace within our Industry. I have long used the example of the Steam Engine being replaced by the Electric Engine of how we resist changes. Yes, the tool was changed – the engine – but the methods and procedures did not change for a generation. Changing the tool was traumatic enough for the leadership of the day. They couldn’t handle that much change in their lives.

Fast forward to the current situation and the area of technology. The Large Computers arrived in larger businesses sold by consultants for the most part. Thus, a new tool was introduced to the market. We wrote everything on our usual forms and sent the “paper” documents to what was then called “Data Processing.” The information on the paper was punched onto cards. These cards were then processed through readers and then passed on to the computer for processing. The computer was then used to print a report of what was punched into the cards and processed that was sent back to the originator or the document in the first place. This was a lot of extra work. It was justified in the speed with which it could be processed once it was corrected.

The computers changed and the need for punched cards was eliminated when we had the arrival of “Computer Terminals.” This is the beginning of what Alex dubbed the “Paper to Glass” transition. It is a beautiful description of what has happened in dealer business systems, we have taken the older processes and procedures and methods of writing things on a piece of paper and instead of writing them down we have typed the information into a computer screen, from writing on a piece of paper to typing on a screen of glass. Rather a good precise description. This is exactly the same as changing the Steam Engine to an Electric Engine.

Typically, a generation is described as twenty years. With the dates of the 1960’s as the starting point for computers to the 2020’s we are talking about taking three generations to adapt and adjust or methods compared to one generation in the 1800’s. How smart do we appear to be now?

I have talked for years, perhaps decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer. Have you got it? How much is it? How long do I have to wait to get it? I believe that is very straight forward. These are the same questions I have when I want to purchase something. BUT. The first question someone asks when a customer calls into a dealer to order parts or walks into the business is never one of those three questions listed above. No, the first question we ask is “Who are you?” We need to know that because the first thing we have to enter on the glass is the customer number. It is very similar to writing the customer number of the order parts sales order form. Does that sound like progress? Or have we simply gone from paper to glass? Can’t we do better than that?

If we look at the service department, we have similar issues. We need to conduct an inspection, either with telematics and sensors or a physical inspection, to determine what is wrong. Then create a quotation, which in most cases is an estimate. Then determine the time line for the repair, establish a schedule, assign the work and complete the work to fix the problem. Of course, it is more complicated than simply finding what part is required to compete a repair but that sounds like a paper to glass transition to me. What about standard times and flat rate pricing? What about understanding objectively the technical skills of each technician and assigning someone to complete the job who has those skills?

I can go on and on in this vein.

Today we have a smaller number of DMS providers in the industry; CDK, DIS, EBS, e-emphasis, Infor, JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP, XAPT and others. (I am sure I missed a few) Each of them is based on the Paper to Glass process.

The real dilemma in all of this to me is that when you change your DMS it is not the cost of the hardware or even of the software that is the real expense. No, it is the retraining of all of your employees in the new methods that are being introduced. Then you go through the curtain on never wanting to go through that change again. It was so painful.

So, Alex called this “Paper to Glass” and he is in the Technology aspect of the industry. I think he is on to something very important and we will talk about this more as time passes.

The Time is Now.

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Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer

Five First Tasks to becoming the Digital Dealer

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues his series on the Digital Dealership with today’s post: Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer.

When I started as a service supervisor, part of my job was closing invoices.  On average, I probably opened (and therefore should have closed) 2 work orders per day.  Yet my metric target was 9 days average invoicing cycle   That meant 9 days between the last day someone worked on the machine and when the invoice was sent.  At the time I thought that seemed quite reasonable.  There were always some outstanding items on the work order, or more commonly I was too busy to close them faster.  The metric was an average number of days, so some work orders were much slower to invoice.  Unfortunately, as we all know, invoices sent well after the end of work are more likely to be disputed and less likely to be paid.

Years later, now responsible for all service operations, I started to ask myself where the 9 days came from.  Why not 10 or 8 or 7 or any other number? There was always some reason to be found why an invoice couldn’t be sent yet.   Then I started wondering why, when I send my car in to get work done at the dealership, do I get an invoice right when I want my car back.  Why don’t they wait 9 days to send me my bill?   I came to realize the reason was because the car dealership had figured out how to make sure every part and charge was on the work order before the work was done.  They do this because they won’t get paid if they give your car back before they send a bill, and they can’t hold your car until the bill is ready.

The car dealership had done the work and created tasks to remove all the problems that delayed getting everything on the work order on time.  So, I started the same process at the branches.  Finding out what stopped invoicing the same day and found ways to remove the hurdle.  It included using purchase orders with confirmed values, real-time digital service reports and even just better vendors. We even changed the metric on invoicing cycle. 75% of work orders had to be closed within one day, 25% could average up to 5 days.  This new metric created tasks for people to figure out how to prevent delays and we showed it was possible to invoice same day in almost all cases.

It’s what Ron calls the Art of the Possible.

In 1993, I got my first dial up internet access, via my 14.4 modem, on my IBM ThinkPad 700.  That’s almost 30 years ago.  Clearly the internet has been around for a long time.  Now, in 2021, here we are talking about the digital dealership and still have open tasks and reasons why we aren’t as digital as most other industries.  The truth is, it is possible!  Possible to have our dealerships capable and positioned where we want them to be.

The Art of the Possible, is about completing the tasks you know exist, to achieve your goals.   It might be a matter of getting some additional help to complete the task.  Either because of manpower, knowledge, or technical limitations.  Sometimes it’s as simple as implementing what you already have in existing systems.   Many of you will agree, you have software systems in the dealership with capabilities you don’t use.  Even though it would make the dealership better.

We’d like to help. Make some time to send Ron Slee or myself a list of 3 – 5 tasks you want to complete. These tasks should be oriented toward a goal aligned with becoming a Digital Dealership and from any department. Examples can include “I’d like to allow customers more flexible ways to communicate with us” or “I’d like to store and use information properly to drive sales”.  Send us your open tasks and we will help you work through implementing them.

A few years ago, I went to see a dealer after my presentation at AED.  I presented on using customer fleet data to predict sales and drive sales activities.  This dealer had all the capacity to implement this concept, and even agreed they should be doing it, but it was still an open item on their list, for the last 20 years. Don’t let small hurdles get in the way of being a better dealership for your customers, don’t let a list of POSSIBLE tasks stop you from becoming a Digital Dealer.

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The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer brings us to the bright side of technology in the Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers.

One of the best things about computers is they do the boring tasks of wading through data.  It’s a concept that is generally well understood, yet too many dealers are not applying this capability.

For all the years I spent running departments at dealers, I was never a fan of reports.   Reports, to me, are long lists of printed out or on-screen data that I need to read through to determine if there are any actionable situations.  It’s time consuming, especially if done on a regular basis.  I’ve always preferred getting the reporting system to do the work for me.

I LOVE indicators, indicators are the action items you get from a long boring report.   Indicators are the result of analyzing the report data and determining what we should do.  A great example is a customer account balance statement, where we look for people over their credit limit or with aged invoices.   Rather than read the whole list, we often just print the over limit customers and hand them to a credit manager or sales rep to call the customer.

In the same way, the Digital Dealership uses its data, computers and an analyst to create actions from data.  These action items are pushed out through various methods to improve the business or support the customer.

There are 2 main types of actionable data.  First there are activity or event triggered actions and the second are analysis or derived actions.

Activity or event-based triggers are implemented often to follow up on past events.  Great examples are notification to the sales rep 30 days after a customer purchased a machine to schedule an initial service or follow up on performance. Similar triggers are post rental follow up, to find out how the customer’s rental experience was.    The Service department can do a similar follow up after a customer receives their maintenance inspection check list with quoted items found during the service.   If the customer declines them initially, the Digital Dealer follows up to make sure they got done, frequently gaining that work.

The second type of trigger is derived from data or rather the analysis of historic data.  These are often more complex and look for changes in the historic norm to determine if something has changed, which would require action.   This is something we all do in the parts business, for example.  As sales of a part drop off, we analyze the data and, if the part is used on an old model, we determine the need to stock less of them.

Triggers based on data trend analysis often let us get ahead of a problem.   Think of a customer who normally purchases every 6 weeks but has shown no activity in the past 8.   The Sales Rep should be able to connect with that customer and find out why.   What about a customer who was spending $100K per year on service labor, but in the past 6 months it’s been $25K?  In these cases, it’s likely important to understand what’s happening.

Triggers, from analyzing data history or events and put in front of the right person, lead to action.  These action triggers can be as simple as an email notification, or, preferably these triggers are listed as exceptions on a digital platform such as your CRM.  In a CRM the indicator can easily lead to a page listing the customer’s contact information or even instantly connect the call.  Once the call is done an activity is created capturing the story from the customer, and possibly generating a new sales lead.

One of my favorite indicators in Vizybility is “Customer that need follow up”.  Set a contact frequency for an existing or target customer, and the CRM reminds you to call on that interval.  These are great to avoid missing sales for a low volume customer.

In all of these scenario’s computers do what they do best, track and analyze data.   Analysts learn from the data and, in conjunction with a manager, create triggers when certain scenarios are seen.  These actionable decisions, or triggers, are fed to people in the operations through CRM or other systems to support customers, avoid problem.

Next time you’re reading through a long report list and deciding what to do, think about how you could create automatic triggers in your Digital Dealership.

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An Update Just For You – Our Quarterly Newsletter

An Update Just For You – Our Quarterly Newsletter

On July 1st 2021 we published our first Newsletter. We were very excited to get it completed. We put a button on our website for visitors to Sign Up for it and we received a modest, but significant, interest in the first Newsletter. Thank you for all of you who did Sign Up. For those of you who are interested and have not yet signed up for it you can access the Newsletter Library from the Resources tab on the website, www.learningwithoutscars.org. We are working on the upcoming Fall version on October 1, 2021 now. It features many inputs from the readers of our first one. Don’t miss out. Sign up to receive it automatically in your inbox by clicking on the Sign-Up button on our website.

Our goal with the Newsletter is clear – to continue to transfer information and knowledge to the operational people and leaders in the Capital Goods Industries. To accomplish this, we have split the Newsletter into a series of sections: –

  • Person of Interest
  • Aloha a Learning Without Scars Introduction
  • The Parts Business
  • The Service Business
  • Product Support Selling and Marketing
  • The Business of Business
  • Lifelong Learning.

The Fall Newsletter will be sent to you with a link for the Parts, Service, Product Support Selling and Marketing and the Business of Business sections Clicking on the links will enable you to receive a file of the Newsletter content in a .pdf format. This should make it easier for you to distribute to your co-workers. On a side note, you can get them to sign up for it themselves and you won’t need to have the .pdf link at all. It is these individual sections that we are creating for our readers so that they will be able to have easier access to the specific content thoughts and ideas for their consideration.

We hope that you will share the appropriate sections with other employees in your business. Have them read it and then set some time where you and the team can discuss it. This is part of the ongoing work of leading and enabling a team of people to continue their individual growth. Communications on matters of common interest. We have provided the content such that there are thought provoking ideas and suggestions in each section. Plus, don’t forget that everything we mention we have implemented around the world for the past forty years. Where you find items that might make a difference in your business. Select items you want to focus on and implement change. Talk with your team, assign a project leader, establish the what-how-when-with whom plan, and then set up a schedule for the implementation. That is one of our mail goals with the Newsletter – provide content which causes teams of people to think about any changes they could or should make to affect the work of the employees and make it more rewarding as they continue to satisfy the needs and wants of your customers.

In our Lifelong Learning Section, we provide you with suggestions for applicable and pertinent books to read. This has been a normal practice of mine, for many years, either as a leader in a dealership or in my consulting practice. Pick a book that you think will resonate most with your team. Buy the book for everyone in that team, that is a very inexpensive training cost. Give everyone a month to read the book. Set up a date where the group will meet, either face to face or via a Zoom/Teams type virtual meeting platform. Talk about the book. What did they learn? What did they find of interest? Talk about it. This is about encouraging every member on your team to try and become better both professionally and personally.

Our mission in Learning Without Scars is very straightforward: assist each individual, we touch, in the identification of their personal or professional potential. Once that potential has been identified then we want to be involved in the creation of a plan of action whereby each individual can get on a path to achieving that potential. This is not easy work. Growing as an individual is not easy work either. Believe me I work at it all the time.

If you look at the world around us and understand that change is a given and that the rate of change is accelerating then you will understand why we believe this is of critical importance to each and every one of us. Aim I aiming too high? No one has every accused me of thinking small. What do you think?

The time is now.

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The Digital Dealership: Information is the Core

The Digital Dealership – Information is the Core

At the core of the digital dealership is information. Tonight, Mets Kramer shares more about the key information you need.

Perform an Information Audit to develop your Digital Dealership

 

In our last podcast about the Digital Dealership, Ron and I discussed what some of the first steps are that any dealership should take to become a dealership of the future.  Since the basis for the digital dealership is the complete use of information, I suggested the first step should be to review how the dealership is currently storing and using key information.

Key information, in the Digital dealership, revolves around the customer and equipment, and especially customer equipment data. To become an integrated dealer, making the most out of the information available, information needs to be collected, analyzed and shared among all areas of the business. It’s important that areas of the dealership don’t become information silos. It’s especially important that the different areas of the business don’t operate on disconnected versions of the same data.

To do this means a few things:

  • First, information should be kept in a single database or “single source of truth” for each type of information. Whether it’s customer, account, equipment or contact information, there should be one primary place to store that information, and no more. Whether it’s equipment information on work orders, customer information and contact data in CRM or unit number information in parts, they all need to draw from and update the same single source. This is especially true if the information is also needed in the other departments.
  • Second, information needs to be shared out to all departments to help make decisions. The Sales team should see equipment information on machines serviced by the shop, they should see parts sales by machine from the parts department. Service needs to know about machines sold to customers before they come in for their first service work, and everyone needs to know the engagement of customers on marketing and digital platforms.
  • Third, information should be enhanced with data from outside sources and inhouse analysis should be performed. When the sales team looks at a customer fleet list, they need to know how much should have been generated by each machine through parts and service, not just the actual numbers. Sales should be able to see market price on equipment when they review a machine, not have to ask the office to get this. Service should be able to see if customers have open quotes and deals on replacement machines when advising the customer’s techs about required repairs. The Marketing department should see what activities are generated from their marketing activities or customer engagement.

To prepare you for your dealership’s journey toward becoming a digital dealership the first step is to review existing systems, available information and the areas where information is missing.  This Information Review identifies what needs to be done, where the problems lie and what systems are limiting your dealership’s efforts. This review is often hard to do with in house people. Most people are too busy running the day-to-day transactions in your dealership, but it’s also hard to find the things you don’t know to look for.

If you’re looking for a detailed review of your information systems, a strategic plan of issues to resolve and initiatives to complete on your Digital Dealership journey, my Company Strategic Evolutions (https://www.strategicevolutions.ca)  can provide this service for you.  With a week onsite, reviewing your systems and talking to people from marketing to service, we’ll prepare a detailed presentation and provide recommended activities to make information an important driver in your dealership’s growth and future.

Are you ready to see your Digital Dealership grow?

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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The Digital Dealership: Change and Remaining the Same

The Digital Dealership – Change and Remaining the Same

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Mets Kramer continues to speak on the digital dealership with a look at change, and remaining the same.

I often hear, and most of us have said, the following word.  “The equipment business is a relationship business”, “Relationships make the difference”.

Nothing could be truer about this industry.   Our products create long term relationships because each of the products have a long-life cycle during which we need to engage with and support our customers.  Relationships make all the difference during many phases of the machine’s life cycle.  I first learned this lesson dealing with 330 Excavator issues.  This work horse machine was relied upon by many customers, just it had lots of issues.  Cylinders, pumps and final drives to name a few.  Having a strong relationship helped us navigate the problems with the customers and come up with workable solutions and agreements.  Through it all, we maintained the relationship and the next generation of the same machine still had lots of buyers.

So, this is often what I hear from dealers when talking about the development of the Digital Dealership. “Digital isn’t important, it’s a relationship business”. As if relationship is all it takes to maintain a customer. If that were true, we would all still have a roll of quarters in the truck and be looking for pay phones to get a hold of the office and the customer, rather than get a cell phone to get better.

The Truth is, while relationships matter, the digital transformation has supported it all the way and needs to continue to do so.  It’s naive or “old fashioned” to get stuck in the glory of the past.   Just like your cell phone caused the demise of the Pay phone because it allowed you to do things better. The rest of the digital world is there to support you. Not replace you.

This past week I sent my 4Runner in for service.  Just for fun I went online, found the nearest dealer, booked an appointment, chose my preferred communication method, got a quote for the service and discussed additional required services at my mileage. Then I got to the Dealership and talked face to face with the person I’d been emailing with. All my car information was entered, and we wasted no time.  I built a relationship with Jallone the Assistant Service Manager.  He looked after my needs and I tried to steal him from automotive to the equipment business, because he did a great job. When the service was done, he followed up with electronic invoices and discussion on open items.

The Digital dealership supports and improves your existing operations, it does not destroy the value of relationships, it only makes them easier to create and maintain.

Take this example I heard from Alex Kraft at Heave.co this past week. A contractor told him he’s been waiting for 3 weeks to get a quote from his sales rep.  All this customer wanted was a piece of paper (or electronic quote) for a machine, but the sales rep is too busy or the process too onerous to get a quote out. How is it helping that dealer and customer not to have the dealership invest more seriously in digital systems to provide quotes faster. In the end this contractor went to a new platform that exposed his needs to dozens of other dealers, who quoted him automatically or saw the Quote request and responded.

Digital supports your business; it doesn’t take away from it; unless you decide to implement it poorly.

How else does Digital augment your relationship?

A core aspect of the Digital dealership is the use of information.  As the equipment expert your customer relies on, you need to be seen as the trusted advisor, not a quote provider or order taker. Find ways to use digital information to be ready to support your customer with all the equipment related information you can. Specs, performance, analysis, operating cost and market pricing data. When you become the Digitally enabled Trusted Advisor, you’re always welcome.

Oh, and don’t forget to have inventory info at your fingertips and be able to price something.

Years ago, I had dinner with a colleague in Chicago during my only 1.5 years not in the construction equipment business.  He told me a story of being a young regional manager, sitting with his customer.  He proudly boasted about the improvement their business had made in delivery.  He told his customer “We can now ship any product we have in stock to you in a week”.  He was so proud of the giant gain in delivery speed.   His customer looked at him and laughed “You’ve got to be F@#%@ kidding me, from stock to out the door in seven days???”    Expectations are the point.  Your customers have a learned experience of what’s possible.  No matter how good you think you are, if someone is doing it better, that’s the new standard.

Creating a strong Digital Dealership, however that applies to your dealership, improves your relationship with your customer.

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Target Marketing

Target Marketing

In his guest post for this week, Ross Atkinson highlights the critical importance of technology when it comes to target marketing.

It is truly amazing how times have changed in the last 20 years! Dealerships have gotten larger through consolidation and spread further apart. The dealer is servicing more customers with less staff. Welcome to the world of running “lean and mean.”

The customers aren’t staying small either as they continue to expand in order to survive in this ultra-competitive world. As customers get larger, the likelihood is that someone other than the owner will be the one picking up or dropping off. The days of the customer grabbing a coffee, sitting down for a personal discussion and allowing you to get to know them better, is a faded memory of the good old days.

Technological advances can also be partly to blame for the lack of face-to-face interactions. It’s commonplace today for many transactions to be done without the need of talking to a salesperson by utilizing internet-based ordering systems. Let’s not forget, even if you do visit a bricks & mortar store, you may still have limited verbal communication with a human being considering the availability of digital lookup and self-checkout kiosks. And if the goods aren’t being delivered to your customer’s home or business, the conversation at pickup is trivial at best.

Even if we did have a need for human interaction, we have the next generation of workers who have grown up in an era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s bad enough they don’t teach cursive writing or spelling in schools anymore, but with today’s youth spending countless hours in front of screens growing up, they are missing out on the opportunity to learn social skills with other people like their friends.

So as dealerships lose personal contact with their customers, they look to other means of communication and one of the few things available is technology. Using an automated, self-controlled method of recognizing certain conditions, a notification can be sent to the customer electronically or interactively. I call this “Target Marketing”. It is a term I use for targeting a single customer based on triggers or events that happen every day. Call it what you will, these kinds of systems are available today and can reach out to your customer through some form of digital communication like a text or email. It can let them know that their parts order has arrived or notify them when their machine is due for service. No more manually calling, no more busy signals, no more answering machines, and no more forgetting.

There are an endless number of “triggers or alerts” that can facilitate a communication to your customer. Words of warning though, do not go overboard. Ensure that the most important, time sensitive notifications take precedence. The last thing you want to do is alienate your customer by sending them 15 emails or texts a day.

Having this information sent to your customer’s fingertips can be very beneficial. The immediacy of the message sent to their phone or device allows them to take action right away. For the dealership, it eliminates the need for staff to take time away from their busy day to chase down the customer.

At the same time, the trigger and alert concept can also be used within the dealership to benefit the customer. When a work order is opened for a customer’s machine, wouldn’t it be important to know there is an outstanding recall?

Although the interactions between the dealership and the customer isn’t what it used to be, when you do get an opportunity to be face-to-face, take full advantage of the time to know your customer better. Wish them a Happy Birthday or thank them for their purchase. Ask them how they are doing and what’s happening in their business or personal lives. Your customers will appreciate the attention and interaction; you may actually learn something about them that will improve your relationship.

We should also consider what else computer systems can do to better understand and help the customers. With the collection and analysis of customer transactional data, you can get an understanding of specific patterns which may result in some form of target marketing for things such as bulk purchasing.

This same data analysis can also be significant for your dealership. It can help identify patterns such as peak order times so that you can staff accordingly or ensure that you have the appropriate stocking levels. It may even facilitate changes to your day-to-day business processes.

As you know, Ron’s podcast tagline is “The Time Is Now.” Well folks, if you want to keep in touch with your customers today, you better get on the technology bandwagon! The Time Is Now!

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