How does your dealership provide the level of product knowledge and training that parts personnel need in today’s demanding environment?
According to several recent surveys, customers say that a product specialist at a dealership is one of the major factors in determining whether or not they will stick with that dealer.
Some dealers might interpret this to mean that customers want someone who specializes in equipment technology and knows how to optimize the use of the equipment. However, that is not what customers are saying.
When asked to clarify what they mean by a product specialist, customers resoundingly said they want to work with someone at their dealership who knows their equipment better than they do.
Customers also want parts and service people to truly understand how their equipment operates and how it may function in various applications or situations.
The training range needs another target
The amount of money dealers typically spend on training varies by what’s required, overall interest and commitment, and available financial resources. Sales staff attend new product training meetings, which include ride and drive events. Service technicians travel to required OEM-sponsored training classes.
That leaves the parts department. Are equipment dealers offering sufficient training to their parts departments? It’s a simple yes or no question. If the answer is no, how do you expect the parts personnel to get the knowledge they need to effectively work with your customers?
A one-two punch to training
When it comes to training, I would recommend a two-pronged approach for your parts department.
First, before sending anyone from sales to a new product training meeting, make it known in advance that when they return to the dealership, you expect your salespeople to give the parts and service departments a 30- to 60-minute presentation on the topics from the training event.
Next, I would ask the parts staff to make a list of what piece or pieces of equipment they feel they need the most training on. Present the list to the service department and request that its staff put together a 60- to 90-minute walk-around to explain the common wear items and common adjustments on a particular piece of equipment to parts employees. This walkaround is especially effective during the winter months as we are, or should be doing, a large volume of equipment inspections.
Dealers could offer these training sessions on a Saturday morning or after hours and bring in food and refreshments and make these events fun. Give the presenters some type of gift for their presentations and make it something others may see and say, “Hey maybe I should volunteer to do the next presentation.”
Another great opportunity is to visit with your customers and ask if they would mind allowing some of your employees to actually get behind the wheel or controls of a piece of their equipment to get some real-life experience operating the equipment. You might be surprised at how willing and honored your customers are to help.
If you don’t have a plan for training your parts personnel but expect them to learn this equipment by osmosis, you are opening up the door for your competitors to outperform your team, which might just lead to your customers taking delivery of their equipment by some other dealership.