Anonymous Distributor

Welcome to an “A.D. vs. the industry” article! I was visiting one of my favorite dealers the other day, and he/she made a comment that sparked this month’s article. It’s times like this that I want to take off my superhero A.D. mask and reveal my true identity. So, I will. My name is ______ ______ , and I work for ______ in ______. Wow, that felt better!

What he/she was saying was certain manufacturers (and distributors) don’t give a darn about the dealer. He/she went on to tell me how messed up warranty procedures are and how there are a lot of hoops a dealer has to jump through to file a warranty claim. So, that got me thinking about what to write this month.

Mr./Mrs. Manufacturer and Mr./Mrs. Distributor, when was the last time you tried to use the programs that you expect your dealers to use? First, I’ll ask you about your warranty processes. Do you use an online warranty-processing program? If so, have you actually entered a warranty claim using your own time and money? Are you paying the dealer diagnostic time? The problem with some manufacturers is that because their program works for them, they believe that it should work for everyone. But remember that not all dealers are as computer literate as you (or your staff) may be. Compare it to going to a foreign country and not knowing the language.

Years ago, A.D. worked for __________ and had to travel to Europe. When I arrived, I was shocked to learn that my bags didn’t arrive. So, I headed to the local convenience store and asked for deodorant. (Not that A.D. stinks, but you should never be out of that.) The lady working there didn’t speak English, so I raised one hand in the air, and with my other hand, I acted like I was applying roll-on deodorant. She then did the same by acting like she was spraying or rolling. She then showed me both types of deodorant, and I bought the roll-on deodorant. At that moment, I realized that not everyone communicates the same way. Fast forward many years later, and the same thing can be said about computer warranty programs. If you’re a manufacturer, please make sure that your programs are user friendly for all computer skill levels. If you’re a distributor, please make sure that your territory managers know how to use the programs, so they can help the dealers.

Another question for the leaders of distributors and manufacturers: When was the last time you got out of your office and visited your dealers? If it’s been a while, quit telling the dealer what to do. You owe it to your customers (not partners — a partner actually works together for success) to get out and personally thank them for supporting you and your company. If you’re a key decision maker, you owe it to yourself to learn what’s different today. And A.D. can honestly say, there is a lot different today. Get out and hear about the struggles that your dealers face today. Don’t nod your head like those bobbleheads (unless you bring one that resembles you), and seriously listen about the issues that your dealers face. Take notes, go back to your company, and talk to your staff about the issues. Talk is cheap; make sure that you create an action plan. Find ways to help the dealer become a partner and not just another dollar sign. Would you believe A.D. if I told you many, many, many dealers leave money on the table because it takes them too long to complete your paperwork? They give up and decide to lose money servicing your products. Sorry, but that is wrong for the dealer to not be paid, and it is wrong for you to make it that hard for them.

I could go on and on about this, but will save some for later. In fairness, there are manufacturers and distributors that do “get it.” They bend over backward to make sure that the dealer is taken care of. But if you are a manufacturer or distributor leader, I challenge you to get out and ask your dealers the following two-part question: “Is my company aware of your struggles, and are we helping or hurting your business?”