Practical Ways to Understand and Implement Customer Experience Strategies from the Leader in Customer Experience
Customer Experience Strategies for Original Equipment Manufacturers and Dealer Networks
What does Amazon know about customer experience that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and equipment dealers should? Plenty!
Dealers Days & Early Amazon Business Modeling
Back in my dealer days, around the 2001–2002 time frame, we rebuilt our company website and had some creative ideas about increasing “time on site,” a buzzword and an important key performance indicator at the time, and it 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, but now it’s everything! From this, it was easy to visualize what strategies we might apply to our dealer products and services.
During the technology research phase of how to build a recommendation engine for every dealer’s core areas of opportunity (new sales, used equipment, parts, service, rentals, and other seasonal or unique special, high-margin items), I decided building such an engine wasn’t economically feasible.
So we built a landing page redirect so that 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 4,836 over a five-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-focused 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 with customer relationship management (CRM) integration to follow up and manage leads.
From this data, we started pushing out leads to sales reps’ flip phones, by product and service specialty and by region and zip code, which we programmed into our back-end database. Advanced stuff back then but easy stuff today!
It worked wonders back then, and is still a massive opportunity today for OEMs and dealers in terms of what the possible processes are to improve these customer experience processes and their bottom lines.
Amazon Today & What We Can Learn From It
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 search anything about Amazon today on Google and find entire bodies of work on its 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, the shareholder letter is an inspiration. The main items that I believe are most applicable to equipment OEMs and dealer strategy are the following:
- Recommendation Engines
- Customer Surveys and Reviews
- Email Promotions
- Rewards Programs
Today, there are simple-to-install solutions, which didn’t exist years ago, to recommend additional products based on a website visitor’s 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 do with machine learning and AI, so you have to do some additional digging.
In addition to available software solutions, there are several integration points for which no software program can connect what you might want to sell more of, be it a product or service. 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 customers know about everything you sell and service.
Customer Surveys & Reviews
If you haven’t taken 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 with slight differences. A good listing 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, including other products 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 and product segmentation required. Also, an over-automation of the process or a too-frequent emailing schedule is a turnoff 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 and 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, as 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. This letter to Amazon’s shareholders, https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/2018-letter-to-shareholders, is a great tune-up on what other thought leaders are doing. A short summary of key takeaways:
- Customers are looking 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 six-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!
About EquipmentFX Services
Over the years, the services we offer have evolved to meet each client’s 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 that we can customize together.
After each assessment, the two questions clients usually ask us 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.