By Greg Carradus
As an outdoor power equipment dealer who has to compete with big box stores and the Internet, creating the best possible experience has never been more important. Here are 7 proven ways to create the best customer experience and breed customer loyalty in your dealership.
1) Maintain a clean and organized dealership: We all know that first impressions can mean everything. That’s why it’s critical that the overall look and feel of your dealership is presented in the best way possible. This means having a very clean and organized business.
* As challenging as it can be with all of the dirt and equipment that comes through your doors, you need to make a conscious effort to keep your floors, product shelves, and counters clean.
* Organize products so they are all facing the consumer and are appealing to the eye.
* If you have stools at your counter with tears or duct tape on them, get rid of them and replace them with new ones that are inviting to sit on.
It’s essential that you create an environment where anyone would be comfortable sending any member of their family into your dealership to do business with you.
2) Make sure all of your products have professional-quality price labels: This is an area that Bob Clements, president of Bob Clements International, highly stresses to his clients. You must have labels on every item of merchandise.
* If there’s no label, it indicates it’s not for sale.
* Make sure you avoid hand-written labels. If they’re hand written, they imply that the price is negotiable.
* Check with your manufacturer reps to see if you can get professional-quality pricing labels for your merchandise.
* If you use industry-specific business management software, check with your provider to see what kind of options it offers for printing professional-quality labels directly from your system.
3) Offer competitive prices on common items and make a big deal out of it: Another area that Clements suggests as a great way to draw customers in is to have competitive prices on six to 12 of your most common, highest-selling items that people generally know the price. He refers to this as the “Walmart” method of pricing. If you sell those items at slightly lower than MSRP, and make up the margin differential on the lesser-known priced items, you’ll be able to absorb the costs and reap major benefits. For example, if you sell a common Briggs & Stratton filter cheaper than MSRP, create signage that says “check out our prices” and show what the MSRP is and what you charge. You’ll gain instant notoriety as the dealership that offers great prices.
4) Make your showroom floor engaging and interactive: Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to displaying items on your showroom floor. Since this area is the main attraction in your dealership, make your showroom as appealing and inviting as possible.
* Take your best items, add all the best features, and invite people to try things out.
* Create signs asking them to sit on your riding mowers so they can get a real feel for them.
Treat your showroom like a car dealer does. Include all the loaded extras on units and list the price. It’s much easier to start a unit priced at its pinnacle and take items off than it is to start from scratch and add items.
5) Create an environment that welcomes daily traffic: This is an area you can have fun with and even be a little creative. The objective is to make your dealership an area where the local community enjoys visiting.
* Offer free coffee, free soda or free popcorn to everyone who comes through your doors.
* If you have a well-mannered, people-friendly pet, let that pet hang out at the shop and serve as your business mascot.
The idea is to make your dealership a familiar and friendly hangout that’s well known throughout the community. This can prove to be a relatively cheap and effective way to promote the business and generate great word-of-mouth.
6) Have information at your fingertips: Keep your business management software up-to-date so anyone in your business can look up information for customers and provide the information they are looking for.
With all of the steps you take to make your dealership inviting, the most important thing you need to do once customers enter your business is to be knowledgeable about every customer, the units they are having serviced, and the merchandise you carry.
The easiest way to do this is through an industry-specific business management system. By tracking all of your customers, product, inventory and work order history, anyone in your dealership should be able to greet a customer, look them up, and let them know the status of their service orders. If they are looking for a particular product, you should be able to easily look it up in your system to see what your quantities are.
* This will reduce the amount of time it takes serving your customers and leave them with a great feeling in knowing that your entire dealership is knowledgeable about them as a customer and the business they’ve done with you.
7) Properly clean all equipment that leaves your service department: As important as it is to create a great first impression, you also want to put as much, if not more, effort into leaving a great lasting impression. This means any equipment serviced in your dealership — no matter how dirty it is — should leave looking as close to new as possible.
* If your state’s guidelines allow you to wash the equipment, do so. If not, you can still take measures to ensure the equipment leaves in cleaner condition than how it came in. Paying attention to this detail will impress your customers when they pick up their equipment and will motivate them to tell others about the great service you offer.
By incorporating just a few of these practices into the appearance of your dealership and the experience you provide for your customers, you’ll quickly begin creating the “wow” factor that you are looking for when it comes to creating a solid base of loyal customers.
Greg Carradus is director of sales for Ideal Computer Systems, Inc., a business management software provider. For additional information, visit www.idealcomputersystems.com.