Do You Really Need Product Support PSSRs, or CSAs?
Guest writer Bill Pyles shares all the ways we really do need Product Support SRs or CSAs.
Most larger equipment dealerships have a robust PSSR (Product Support Sales & Service Rep), CSR (Customer Support Representative) or CSA (Customer Support Advisor) that has been in the making for years. This group of Product Support men and women are an integral, value-added, sales and profit generating part of the entire dealer organization.
But maybe you’re a smaller dealer and looking to get to the next tier of the Product Support ladder.
This blog is for you!
The CSA acronym is my personal favorite as I truly believe the words customer support advisor best describes the position. The CSA is the direct link between the dealer and everything Product Support related. A well-trained CSA offers the options that meets the financial and equipment requirements of the customer. Should a failed engine be repaired, rebuilt, or replaced? Is the machine a production machine or a backup? Is the machine scheduled to be sold out of the fleet within the next six months? While the machine is down, are there any other critical areas of the machine that need inspected and repaired before going to failure? Customers get very angry when a leaking final drive went to complete failure, resulting in a machine down situation just after leaving your shop.
If your dealership sells and services tracked type equipment (excavators, dozers and tracked loaders) I know your aware the largest cost of ownership is the undercarriage. The undercarriage is a system into itself. Your CSA should have a complete understanding of the undercarriage system. A simple proper track adjusting discussion with the customer demonstrates a knowledge that will save him dollars and downtime. Getting a customer maximum undercarriage life will save thousands of dollars over the life of the machine.
You’ll also need a good machine population file. It’s tough to forecast sales not knowing your opportunity. A good machine population file will identify the aging, location, and hours on the equipment. By the way a good population file is beneficial to sales, many machines are removed from the fleet after so years and hours. New sales opportunities!
Typically, the 80/20 rule is the typical CSA customer list. The top 20 customers assigned to a CSA typically take of 80 percent of their time and resources. Dealers will need to develop the unassigned fleet customers and the “middle segment”, customers who have your equipment but do not purchase any parts or services.
You’ll need an annual CSA meeting to discuss trends, sales forecast, changes in the market and to celebrate over and above accomplishments (just picture your last whole goods sales meeting). Is the GM or dealer principle attending? The GM and or dealer principle must make an appearance to show support and comment on the current business environment and congratulate the high performing CSA’s. A well-developed CSA program will give you much to celebrate!
But who does the CSA report to? The dealer principle?
I once worked for a regional vice president who upon returning from an executive meeting was convinced, we should terminate the CSA program, all of it, today, now.
This executive meeting was held during one of the severe cyclic downturns in heavy equipment sales. Dealers were struggling to survive and expense control was job one. Elimination of the CSA program would save accelerating expense dollars. His rational was simple, if severely flawed. We have a good product and if a customer experiences a failure, he will simply pick up the phone and call us. And with our new snazzy web site, the customer will simply log on and make arrangements for needed parts and or service. After thinking this over maybe for 60 seconds I countered with the elimination of the whole goods salesmen using the exact same logic; we sell good equipment and if a customer needs a new machine or a long-term rental, he will simply pick up the phone and call us. Fortunately, neither plan was put into action, we survived the downturn and came out stronger on the other end.
The sales manager? Maybe not a good choice as the sales manager has enough on his plate with inventory, inventory aging, salesmen, OEM programs, order windows, financing and fleet deals. A CSA reporting to the sales manager may turn into a delivery driver for a bucket, gathering hours for a trade in or running out docs to be signed.
The parts manager? Maybe not a good idea as most part managers are outstanding at managing their inventory, over the counter fill, stock orders, counter activity but not managing a parts and service sales person.
The service manager? Not here either. Service managers have many balls in the air dealing with shop service, field service, training, warranty, the pothole in the parking lot (a little sarcasm) OEM’s and technicians. Not much time to manage a CSA.
A CSA without a direct supervisor soon becomes a “floater” or Product Support orphan employee.
A better solution would be a Product Support Sales Manager or a position with a similar title. This person would have 100% accountability for a successful CSA program. He or she would work closely with parts and service management in writing CSA goals that are in alignment with company goals. The Product Support Sales Manager would do the CSA’s bi-annual and annual performance reviews as well administer incentive plans and salary increases, create annual sales forecasts and work closely with the OEM representatives regarding OEM Product Support programs.
A Product Support Sales Manager is the mentor, manager, and coach in developing a CSA. CSA’s must have a career plan with defined goals in sales and service activity. I worked at a dealer who had an outstanding Product Support Sales Manager, super high energy. I truly believed this man could inspire CSA’s to sell snow plows in Miami Florida!
A CSA MUST participate in technical training for the products the dealer represents as well as management level training in negotiating skills and people skills. A successful CSA will have a basic understanding of oil sampling, why on time PM’s are important and an excellent understanding of repair, rebuild or replace options. These skills development can be better managed by a qualified Product Support Manager who reports directly to the dealer principle.
CSA Vehicle: Car or Pickup Truck.
I’ve had responsibility for CSA’s and have experience with both the CSA company vehicle being a car or truck; pros and cons for both. If you give your CSA a car allowance and he or she uses their personal vehicle, you’ll soon find the car parked and a company truck “borrowed” for the day to run out some rebuild pumps and a cylinder or two. Car allowance or not, the CSA will be reluctant to damage or have spilled oil in the trunk or floor. In my opinion a pickup truck sporting the dealer’s name and logo is your best choice. Graphics today look sharp on the job site and rolling down the highway. And when on site, if there is something that the CSA can help out by running something back to the shop, it will not be a problem. However, you’ll want to avoid your newly minted CSA into becoming a parts runner. I do suggest that when a CSA plans his day, he or she will check with will call to see if there are some parts he can bring out and check the service WIP (Work In Process) to see if the customers he’s calling on today have any equipment in the shop and get the status, the customer will ask, be prepared!
CSA Salary & Expenses
CSA salary and expenses are usually split 50/50 between the parts and service departments. I’ve heard arguments that a CSA will sell more parts than service and parts should pay more of the percentage. Most CSA programs are salary and commission based. Another responsibility of the Product Support Sales Manager.
But keep in mind, a dealer’s best margin comes from labor sales. It’s the responsibility of the Product Support Sales Manager to steer the CSA into higher labor sales. If a customer needs a reman engine and the CSA provides a quote for the reman engine, the labor to do the remove and install must be included. I think Michael Jordan once said he missed every shot he did not take. The same applies here; don’t quote the labor and you surely will not get it. Your competitors may be quoting the same reman engine AND the labor. The customer likes the turnkey repair and asks your competitor when they can start. Always provide a professional estimate/quote and follow up with the customer. Add value and close the deal!
Customer Support ADVISOR
When I was a newly minted Product Support Sales Manager, I thoroughly enjoyed customer visits and scheduled customer meetings. I’d wait for an opportunity to ask the customer if a recent issue, wrong parts, late service call, etc. he brought up was discussed with his CSA (I did not use the CSA’s name). If the customer replied “oh you mean the guy who measures our tracks” then we’ve failed to make the ADVISOR relationship with the customer. A good gap we need to close. CSA’s need to listen when the customer talks and suggest solutions to equipment problems. I know we’re providing value when the customer asks the CSA “what do you think?” When the customer says those words, the rest is up to you to deliver the outstanding Product Support that makes you the “go-to” dealer!