About 150 dealers for Volvo Construction Equipment have been trekking to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, since last week for training on hot topics ranging from the latest machine features and benefits to how dealerships can stay competitive in a changing marketplace.
Called “Boots-On Shippensburg,” the detailed product training is drawing dealer attendees from throughout the United States and Canada for two three-day sessions held September 18 through September 27.
Designed to give them a competitive selling edge, the training includes a firsthand look at how Volvo’s new equipment adds value to the customers’ businesses. Each attendee receives extensive training on each product at specific stations, getting one-on-one time with the equipment in order to test it and pose questions to product managers.
The training on articulated haul trucks, wheel loaders, excavators and telematics comes as dealers are moving to offer construction companies services that are more consultative. This includes helping them to better manage costs, fleets, personnel and new technologies. Many dealers are already highly engaged with ActiveCare Direct, Volvo’s fee-based telematics monitoring and reporting service, as a way to benefit customer service and relationships, for example.
A few of the dealers paused during their training and demonstrations to speak with Equipment World last week in Shippensburg.
“Volvo’s done a tremendous job this week breaking the training down by their various categories, and breaking the entire group into smaller groups so that every individual gets some hands-on training opportunities through each of the stages,” says Tim Hurst, general manager of PacWest Machinery in Portland, Oregon.
“Of course, they’ve focused on their core, which is productivity, safety, uptime – and one common theme throughout all their products is the fuel savings of Volvo engines,” Hurst says.
He and his sales team turned out for training that involved rotated through all the products and working on many of the models. Hurst is general manager of PacWest Machinery In Portland, Oregon. His Volvo dealership covers Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho.
Among other dealers interviewed were Kristin Parker, general manager for Ascendum Machinery, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Brian Hoffman, territory sales manager for Highway Equipment and Supply‘s branch in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.
Ascendum Machinery is the largest Volvo Construction Equipment dealer in the world. Parker is the general manager for territory that encompasses North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. She notes that the Volvo CE “Boots-On” training is provided every three years, and Ascendum is taking full advantage of it this year with all of their salespeople and general manager staff members attending.
“What we’re seeing here is fantastic – just the passion of the folks from Volvo, in addition to getting to see new product introductions,” she told Equipment World last week.
During demonstrations, her colleagues were learning not just from trainers but are also picking up ideas and tips from other Volvo dealers from other regions that her employees hadn’t thought about before, “giving us a step up to go after that,” says Parker.
She and other dealers have been particularly interested in Volvo Co-Pilot, which is designed for use on machines as diverse as excavators to pavers. It uses a tablet to deliver a new generation of intelligent machine services, such as Load Assist, Dig Assist, Compact Assist and Pave Assist.
Parker pointed to Compact Assist for Asphalt with Density Direct, which provides pass mapping, temperature sensing and exclusive real-time density calculations over the entire mat. This helps operators hit target density, increasing productivity and delivering a faster bonus.
“That is big for us. That’ll be a game-changer for us next year, actually, in 2019,” and it will help her dealership be competitive in the market for intelligent machines, Parker says.
ActiveCare Direct popular among dealers
Parker and others also expressed high interest in Volvo’s ActiveCare Direct service.
This telematics service sends out monthly fleet utilization reports on key areas such as fuel use and any machine misuse issues. Instead of the customer trying to determine what’s valuable and what’s not, the company monitors all machines in the system and sends out additional alerts to the dealer and customer if it sees something awry in a customer’s fleet.
Her dealership is putting an increasing emphasis on caring for customers after sales, and they’ve recently signed up several for this service who aren’t just the key accounts, either, Parker says.
“Some of our customers rely on us to tell them what’s going on with their machines, 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and Volvo has worked with us to make that happen,” Parker says.
Dealerships will call the customers with a priority alert that requires immediate action, just in case the customer hasn’t noticed the email alert right away.
“We are definitely ahead of the game right now,” Parker says. “Volvo gives us the opportunity on Priority One, saying we’re going to send an email, and then we’re going to call you. And if they don’t answer, it goes to the next level, which is me.”
This year, for example, her dealership’s technicians had two priority alerts and could not get an answer from the customers, who needed to take action immediately to prevent potentially serious issues, so the dealership stepped in.
In the dealers’ training session on ActiveCare Direct, it was clear to that Volvo goes the next step beyond just logging in “machine down,” and “machine fixed,” Parker explains, calling it “well beyond” what the competition is doing.
“They make us give them the information – what the customer may have done to resolve it, or what we had to do as a work-order system,” she says of the ActiveCare Direct process.
Since Stephen Roy’s appointment two years ago as president of Volvo CE Americas sales region, the technical line team has moved into the ActiveCare Direct team, for example, “so they are having a continuous conversation on problems that we are seeing,” notes Parker.
Hoffman, territory sales manager for Highway Equipment and Supply in Pennsylvania, says his dealership has sent its entire workforce for training on the newest products.
“We’re looking to learn all the features and benefits for our customers and hopefully that will translate into greater sales for Volvo and Highway Equipment,” Hoffman says.
Highway Equipment’s slogan is ‘Going the Extra Mile,’ so they want to make sure they’re stepping up to meet customers’ expectations. Their goal is to be the best in customer value,” Hoffman says.
“We do use ActiveCare Direct and the customers who have it, have received it well,” he adds. “They appreciate ActiveCare Direct because it takes a lot of noise out of the telemetrics. Therefore, they can concentrate a lot on their work, and they’re not spending a lot of extra time trying to figure out what’s an important alarm and what’s not.”
His dealership has also spotted priority alerts before contractors noticed those emails and reached out to them, Hoffman says.
“The purpose of ActiveCare Direct is to increase uptime for our customers, and there are instances where an alert comes, and they’re not aware that they might have a machine breakdown either pending or imminent. We can call them.”
That not only sounds the alarm for the customers, but it also can get personnel dispatched to minimize or eliminate downtime, Hoffman says.
He said their three days of training in Shippensburg last week had been “very beneficial.” With the older “baby boomer” members of the sales force retiring, the younger generation has plenty of hands-on experience, Hoffman says, “and that equates to them having the knowledge to be able to sell the product.”
Hurst, of PacWest Machinery, pointed to a class on Volvo Co-Pilot as especially useful.
“It’s a shared platform across many of their product lines, from articulated trucks to wheel loaders, from excavators to rollers. It uses the same hardware, and the functionality’s very similar, but it’s incorporating the new technology – from the weigh in-motion scale on a loader to the calculator on an asphalt roller to the ability to track the articulated haul trucks at a quarry site,” Hurst says.
“It’s certainly the wave of the future, and it’s been exciting to see what Volvo’s been doing in that regard.”
Parker spoke of anticipation for the arrival of new compact Volvo CE machines. They’re awaiting new skid steers and seeing product improvements on excavators, too, Parker says.
Most notable for her team during their stay in Shippensburg, she says, was to see the Volvo trainers’ excitement “for every little change – if it’s a hinge that they’ve changed, or a coupler that’s different or whatever. It’s the passion they have for it that sends us back out with a whole new attitude.”