Practical ways to understand and implement customer experience strategies from the leader in customer experience
Customer Experience Strategies for Equipment OEM’s & Dealer Networks
What does Amazon know about customer experience that equipment OEM’s and equipment dealers should? Plenty!
Dealers Days & Early Amazon Business Modeling
Back in my dealer days, around 2001 – 2002 timeframe, we rebuilt our company website and had some creative ideas about increasing “time on site”, a buzzword and important KPI at the time, and still is. I was always keen to learn new standards and benchmarks for the equipment industry, so started studying and applying what Amazon was doing to recommend new products. The products were mostly books at the time, now it’s everything! From this, it was easy to visualize what we might apply to our dealer products and services. During the technology research phase of how to build a recommendation engine for every dealers core areas of opportunities (new sales, used equipment, parts, service, rentals, and other seasonal or unique special, high margin items), I decided it wasn’t feasible economically. So, we built a “landing page redirect”, so every time someone completed a contact form, they were then sent to a “Thanks for Visiting” page, with a static grid of product and service images, with embedded
links to our other items and a contact form. Wow! This doubled our “time on site” immediately, and helped build our annual qualified leads from 436 to 4836 over a 5 year period, increased our customer base by 5% year over year, and added a 27% increase to our bottom line over that same period. Our customers just bought more stuff from us with this one simple strategy. Today, there are many options to do this faster and better. At the same time, we installed many new customer service focus items and processes to leverage the new traffic and contact forms being completed. We combined customer survey forms, advanced email marketing systems and customer segmentation and an advanced website/CRM integration to follow up and manage leads. From this data, we started pushing out leads out to flip phones to the reps by product and service specialty, to each rep by region by zip code we programmed into our back end database. Advanced stuff back then, easy stuff today! It worked wonders back then, and is still a massive opportunity today for OEM’s and dealers in terms of what the possible processes are to improve these customer experience processes and your bottom lines.
Amazon Today & What We Can Learn From Them
This post isn’t intended to be a “how to” guide to develop what Amazon does, but more specifically to give you a resource to aspire to when building a better customer experience for any group of customers. You can Google anything today on Amazon and find entire bodies of work on their story. Toward the end of the post, I include information on Amazon’s 2018 shareholder letter that is an exceptional read on the customer experience. Every year their letter is an inspiration. The main items that I believe are most applicable to equipment OEM’s and dealer strategy are the following areas:
Customer Surveys & Reviews
Today, there are simple to install solutions that didn’t exist years ago to recommend additional products based on a website visitors current and past behavior on your site. These can be customized to promote seasonal or high margin items, new product lines and other dealer services. If you Google “product recommendation engines” and see what comes up, you’ll get a wide range of answers, most having to with machine learning and AI, so you have to do some additional digging. In addition to available software solutions, there are several integration points where no software program can connect what you might want to sell more of, product or service-wise. You will always need an intuitive, flexible set of products and services you can quickly add to a recommendation page. From this custom page, there are a number of automated, customer interaction points to make sure they know about everything you sell and service.
Customer Surveys & Reviews
If you haven’t take the time to buy anything on Amazon, or book a reservation through Airbnb, you’re missing some great examples of tight, simple reviews and follow up processes. Software solutions for surveys and reviews are now commonly available and results can be easily sorted, managed and responded to in a manner that lets you stay on top of what your customers are saying. If you Google “customer review software” you’ll get a lot of results, and many do essentially the same thing, but slightly differently. A good summary of top software companies can be found here: https://www.capterra.com/review-management-software/
Once you buy from Amazon, you get a series of emails tailored to your needs based on past purchases and other products that you might be interested in based on your profile and past purchases. For multi-line equipment dealers, this can be an effective method to consistently reach your customers. These processes can also be hard to implement based on the customer/product segmentation required. Also, too-frequent and over-automation of the process is a turn off to anyone, so installing the proper follow up cadence is critical to maintaining relationships. By now, every OEM and dealer is using some form of email promotion, but how tailored is it to the exact target audience? Are you sending the wrong message to the wrong audience? Amazon has this down to a science and is worth a study to make sure you’re doing all you can to promote your products and services as precisely as possible.
Most online retailers have rewards programs to encourage repeat purchases, and the results say they work! Take note of the TV commercials about bonus miles and points: can you apply this same logic and process to your new and aftermarket sales opportunities? Each equipment OEM & dealer network has different business systems, so you need to customize most processes around each unique business system to track rewards and payouts. There are many ways to approach, develop, track and administer rewards programs, and software that can be integrated with your enterprise system with some creative configuration. Think outside the box on this one, the solutions are within easy reach today!
Amazon’s Letter to Shareholders
I love to look at industry leaders to discover new ways of thinking and doing business. The attachment and link is a great tune up on what other thought leaders are doing. A short summary of key takeaways:
Customers are divinely discontent with a relentless appetite for a better way of doing business
Are high standards intrinsic to employees, or teachable?
Are you able to recognize what “good” looks like?
Why writing 6 page meeting memos works
Benefits of high standards
Sharing of achievements and overall results
I’ve shared this letter with past clients and they really appreciate it, and I hope you do as well. I am a huge believer in the upside our great equipment industry has on most levels of customer service, technology solutions and ways to make a customer experience great! https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/company-news/2018-letter-to-shareholders
About EquipmentFX Services
Over the years, the services we offer have evolved to meet each clients unique needs. We like to lead with our proprietary A3 assessment to really understand the gaps and opportunities. From there we can discuss follow on services we customize together. The number one question we get after assessments are “Can you just do this stuff for us”, followed by “we have marketing people, how can we make them and our processes more efficient”. And sometimes we simply deliver the road map and provide support as-needed. At the end of any engagement, you will have a formal framework and internal audit process to improve your program or build a program from scratch to create more new customers, and to sell more to existing ones. To find out more about the EquipmentFX A3 assessment, digital marketing or technology consulting services, please contact us.