I was reading the July issue of OPE magazine (Yes, A.D. can read), and was intrigued by the article titled “EDA releases 2019 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Report and announces its Dealer’s Choice and Gold Level Award recipients.” I am sorry that I wasn’t aware this took place annually, and I was disappointed that I didn’t know a couple of the winners. After doing some research (as good writers do), some of the winners were more agricultural than lawn and garden. The awards are determined by the survey answers from dealers across the country and the answers are anonymous. There is nothing more honest than an anonymous answer to a question. After all, I wouldn’t have anyone reading this article if you knew my name is _______ _________. Being anonymous brings out the inner truths, and allows real feedback. With that said, congratulations to the winners.
Our industry was represented with two Dealers Choice Awards, and they were Vermeer for Shortline Manufacturer, and Scag for Outdoor Power Equipment Manufacturer. Gold Level industry winners were Bush Hog, Echo, Ferris, Grasshopper, John Deere (which could also be agriculture) Kioti, Shindaiwa, Stihl, Toro and Walker. Several use distributors, but of those Gold Level winners, Grasshopper and Walker are family owned.
I don’t want to take anything away from the winners, but instead challenge the ones that didn’t win. Applause to the EDA, because it is trying to strengthen the relationships between dealers and manufacturers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are advocating for factory direct sales. Many of the winning companies utilize distributor partners. Therefore, the challenge goes out to small, medium and large manufacturers, as well as small, medium and large distributors.
Why does someone take the time to participate in this survey? Maybe because of the respect they have for EDA, or possibly because they really want everyone to know they love dealing with certain manufacturers. The best supplier relations are not formed by strict territory boundaries; they are formed because the supplier does everything right for their customer.
Your mission, if you chose to accept, is to change your behaviors and win this survey in 2020. It’s clear what dealers are looking for in a supplier. Fast, accurate, friendly service and easy to do business with. But wait, there’s more! Products that hold up under extreme use, products that don’t require service bulletins every month, products that are innovative, and products that have stood the test of time. If you are a distributor, some of these might be out of your control. You must clearly communicate to your dealer what the supplier is telling you. Clearly communicate…yes, that is what I said. Waiting to deliver a message of an issue that you were informed about three weeks earlier is not clearly communicating.
The way you handle a customer complaint can make or break the relationship. If a supplier waits one to two days before returning a phone call, that will damage the relationship. If it only happens once (maybe twice) that could be forgiven with an honest answer as to what caused the delay. But continuous company philosophies of returning a call when you can immediately disqualifies you from being the winner. This is not determined by A.D., this is determined by what is right and what is wrong.
Let your associates/employees and customers know you want to win the prestigious award. That’s right, put it out there. Why A.D.? Why? Whenever you say you are going to do something and only say it to yourself, there is a great chance you will not do it. You have the right intentions, but no true drive. But when you tell your employees you want to win (and clearly define your decision to change if necessary), you will have not only made a commitment to others but you will most likely get buy in from them. Nothing is more wasteful than not including more minds. Next, tell your customers that you are trying to win a customer satisfaction award. You see, once again, when you commit to something out loud, it is hard to back out. Even if you don’t win the award, you have decided to raise the bar in your company. If you succeed at doing that, and still don’t win the award, think about how much better you became. Don’t stop improving, because in the ______ years I have been in this industry, I have seen that your life can change with a blink of an eye. We must stay on top of our game and provide the best customer service, innovative products, and high-quality equipment to remain relevant.
As always, thank you for the comments from the past articles. If you would like to share your ideas, I will read them and write you back. You can reach me by e-mailing to OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or tweeting to @OPEMAGAD. Remember to keep your mind and blades sharp.