Quality of Communication Channel – Specification Sheets

Quality of Communication Channel – Specification Sheets

In tonight’s post, our guest writer Ryszard Chciuk shares with readers all of the ins and outs of the quality of the the communication channel, especially as pertains to the availability of the machine specification sheets. Please read on to learn more about how these deeply impact your service quality.

When writing about the quality of the communication channel, I mean the definition of service quality worked out by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1985:

Service quality is the degree and direction of a discrepancy between customers’ service perceptions and expectations

It is depressing that this relatively straightforward definition has not been widespread in our industry for almost forty years. And we would better not excuse ourselves that customers’ expectations are more and more demanding.

To improve the quality, we have to close gaps causing the discrepancy between customer expectation and his perception of service. The most important is the main gap:

Not Knowing What the Customer Expects

I assume you are on the way to becoming a digital dealership. If you do not know it, please search for “digital dealership” on the blog. I am afraid that most of you think you know what to publish on your website. However, if you want to provide excellent service to your customers, you have to diminish the gaps; you have to listen attentively to your customers about what information they would like to find there.

Surveys, focus groups, and research reports have many shortcomings. For example, they are expensive and rarely give you a complete picture of what your customers think of your services. It is because we usually do not ask interviewers about what we do not know. There is a newer approach called social listening — analyzing what customers say on social media. This perhaps will be cheaper and provide more reliable information. However, intelligent analysis of natural language content is still a difficult task for artificial intelligence. So, are you sure you know what your customers expect?

In this article, I am showing my point of view on the availability of machine specification sheets on a dealer website. This is a very straightforward piece of information. You can think it is about not-so-important nuts and bolts but be careful. I am sure it is not. I know it from my experience and a “social listening” using my own, not artificial intelligence.

Manufacturers’ decisions often cause problems with providing machine users with a decent level of communication channel quality. That is an obstacle to having engaged customers. For example, manufacturers decide about canceling information on technical specifications and the performance of older models of their machines. Almost on the day of the presentation of a new model, the previous model spec sheet is hidden or deleted from the website. It concerns both a manufacturer and a dealer website.

That behavior is astonishing. After all, this is against our customers using previous models and also against a dealer. I mean, a positive and trustful change in the specifications could prompt a clever customer to replace an older model with a new one, right now, not next year. Thus, he would get better performance, and a dealer would sell a machine. However, buyers must believe what a manufacturer wrote in a new model’s brochure because an old specification sheet is not available for comparison. Let’s see what a top manufacturer says about the significant differences to the previous model:

  1. up to 25% less fuel consumption
  2. up to 20% lower maintenance cost
  3. up to 45% more operating efficiency

Imagine that I am a potential buyer of a new or a used machine. I know that “up to” means the difference starting from 0%. During my over twenty years of work for a construction company, I used to be very impolite to many salespeople using that trick in face-to-face communication. Here, I will not comment on this kind of marketing information. However, I would ask very politely:

  1. What was the previous model fuel consumption? Please, do not answer that it was up to 33% higher than the new one. From the marketing point of view, the higher figure sounds even more attractive, but the value of information is the same. In practice, it is null.
  2. What was the maintenance cost of the previous model? I cannot believe they managed to reduce it by 20%. That is such an outstanding achievement, they should explain it in detail! Did they get rid of any filters or service tasks? Did they reduce the capacity of oil tanks? Did they increase intervals of service jobs?
  3. What was the previous machine model operating efficiency? 45% more is fantastic! Competitors knocked down! But how was it measured?

I am making fun of the information contained in a new machine model specification sheet, but the usability of the previous specification sheet was almost the same. And we have no chance to find it on a dealer website.

As a potential buyer of a used machine, I have more questions for a dealer. Why are you showing me the door? You have some older equipment in your yard. Do you want to sell any? Are you not interested in selling spare parts and service labor for the previous models?

Let’s discuss an example. When I was very young and worked for a construction company, I looked for a crawler excavator for our new pipeline project. It had to be a used machine. Critical parameters were:

  1. digging depth not less than X1
  2. loading height of bucket with teeth not less than X2
  3. lifting capacity at ground level at maximum reach not less than X3
  4. operating weight divided by ground contact area must be lower than X4 (due to soft ground).

And of course, in case we decided to buy, I wanted to know the shipping dimensions.

Today, to make exercising a bit easier, I would look only for used machines made by Caterpillar, Komatsu, or Volvo. That is because only these manufacturers have decent service abilities in the vicinity of my project.

The market for second-hand machines is vast. How to choose the most appropriate model from a long list? I need access to information comprising the mentioned four parameters (plus shipping dimensions). Surprise! I could not find essential information concerning previous models on any website, including the biggest portals for used machines.

I could find them in Caterpillar Performance Handbook or Komatsu Specifications and Application Handbook but are they available online? That is just a rhetorical question. And I have never seen that kind of publication for the rest of the market.

What annoyed me the most during my research? I found the website “The World’s Leading Source of Technical Specifications.” They say they collected spec sheets of thousands of machine models made by over 1000 manufacturers. Paid access to that information is only for manufacturers and their dealers. O, oops!

That is a pure example of billboard-type marketing, or even worse. How can a dealership entirely shift to engagement marketing?

I do not criticize manufacturers or dealers. They are allowed to behave that way by their meek and mild customers. In the world of the Digital Dealership all of the information has to be current and relevant.

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