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Today, manufacturers and their dealers in the automotive, powersports, equipment and transportation industries are faced with navigating an ever-changing business
environment which includes regulatory mandates, changing demographics, increasing customer expectations, and an extremely competitive business environment. It is critical to attract and retain an informed customer who has several options when considering why and how to purchase and service similar products.
For manufacturers with a well thought out strategy for selling and servicing their high value products through a franchise network, one of the most important goals is to establish and maintain a strong dealership network. A strong and well performing dealer network closely aligned with the manufacturer’s goals will represent the brand effectively with the right processes, right facilities, and right people committed to success. Such vital partnership creates a better customer experience and benefits the bottom line while increasing the value of both the dealer franchise and the manufacturer.
To achieve the above, it is important that your Field Team and Dealers work together collaboratively and effectively to manage change and drive performance improvement. This includes using the right performance measures and implementing the right changes. As the saying goes “What’s measured tends to improve”.
Technology is a key enabler. Manufacturers who can implement a streamlined & user-friendly system for managing the dealer visits / contacts while bringing together all critical performance metrics will be able to move ahead. A good performance dashboard / scorecard should be able to integrate a variety of dealer performance data including sales efficiency, service absorption, customer satisfaction, inventory, parts sales data and more. Such a system will be laying the foundation for their sales and after sales field managers to save significant time and become more effective in their dealer contact meetings.
By organizing dealer performance data and establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), manufacturers can generate an accurate profile of a dealer’s performance and reduce subjective and incomplete analysis while introducing standardization that enables field managers to focus on meaningful discussions with dealers and creating an impactful meeting agenda. This process will eliminate field manager tendencies to develop their own preferences and processes for meeting preparations with dealers that result in a wide variation in the effectiveness of dealer contact meetings throughout the network. This performance driven approach will enable field managers to become consultants / coaches to their dealers.
It is also important to accurately record all discussion details between field managers and dealer personnel with the ability to capture supporting documentation that provides a complete picture of the contact meeting.
Establishing an easy process for documenting the details of dealer visits, assigning action plans and tasks to dealers to help improve operational and financial performance is also key. Actions plans and task should be assigned to specific dealer personnel with due dates and supporting notes. These assignments could be given out to dealers during the contact meeting itself or at some other time. All assigned action plans and tasks should be tracked for proper completion.
Additionally, field operations analysis and reporting capabilities should be available for field managers and corporate management. Depending on role, national, regional, district or individual dealership level visibility should be granted to help ensure that activities and performance are aligned with the manufacturer’s initiatives and goals.
Implementing a comprehensive system to manage the dealer contact process that integrates dealer performance data accessible from anywhere will enable corporate and field managers to focus on key topics when creating programs and addressing dealers. A system can also help manufacturers standardize their field operations processes for preparing and conducting dealer contact meetings ensuring productivity of both new and existing field managers. Employing a system that includes strong analysis and reporting capabilities provides management with visibility into the effectiveness of field operation activities and enhances decision making to increase dealer performance in an ever-changing business environment.
A manufacturer / dealer partnership should be built on cooperation and a desire to advance mutual interests. Setting clear expectations and being in alignment on goals is crucial to success. Leveraging technology to create effective processes and channels of collaboration to improve performance builds trust and strong relationships that not only benefit the partnership but provide a better customer experience with the brand.