Migrating from one software system to another can be daunting, especially when you aren’t sure the switch will drive the results you’re looking for. We recently checked in with seven of our customers to see what efficiency gains with creating and maintaining parts catalogs, growing adoption rates, and parts order increases they’ve achieved since making the switch from their old legacy systems to Documoto. Check out the infographic below for the results and customer success stories of manufacturers Arctic Cat, Atlas Copco, Hustler Turf (Excel Industries), LA Metro, Schramm, Takeuchi and Maruyama.
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Most of the companies we work with here at Digabit rely on distributors and dealers to get their products in front of customers. This creates multiple layers between the manufacturer and consumer, leaving OEMs with little direct access to their end users.
As a result, maintaining strong dealer relationships is vital to manufacturing success. If the dealer isn’t happily engaged, the customer is unlikely to be excited about or even interested in the manufacturer’s product.
So how should manufacturers treat dealers in order to ensure that the end user will feel engaged with the brand?
A couple years ago, Gallup aimed to find the answer to strong supplier-distributor relationships, noting that the most effective ones were generally those in which manufacturers treated dealers, not as employees or customers, but as partners.
Let’s look at a few ways manufacturing executives can make that partnership work and optimize dealer performance:
1. Offer Exclusive Territories
Occasionally, manufacturers try to add more and more outlets for their products as a way to fuel growth. Unfortunately, as The Wall Street Journal explained, this strategy often leads to having too many dealers competing against each other for the same customers.
For a more dealer-friendly – and, ultimately, manufacturer-friendly – approach, offer your existing dealers larger, exclusive territories in exchange for greater promotion and display of your products. This might require cutting off weaker dealers so that you can focus your energy on high performers and ensure the market isn’t oversaturated or too competitive.
2. Improve Training Resources
While manufacturers have limited control over their dealers’ management policies, they can share best sales practices and training resources for a mutually beneficial relationship. Since the dealer’s salespeople serve as the OEM’s brand ambassadors, training can be a critical tool in helping dealers attract and retain top talent, turning their sales force into brand champions.
Motivated and well-trained dealers are better equipped to help customers understand the advantages and unique performance qualities of manufacturer’s equipment.
3. Setup One-on-One Support
To truly build and deepen manufacturer-dealer relationships, it’s helpful to have a point person. Arctic Cat, for example, promises its dealers a high degree of personal attention from a dedicated District Sales Manager and back it up with a 24-hour response guarantee.
Not only can field sales representatives maintain regular communication with dealers and keep them informed of new products and resources, but dealers will have the added benefit of knowing exactly who to contact with questions or feedback.
4. Help with Repairs
When products break, dealers need instantaneous access to part and repair information. By providing a centralized, electronic portal of repair manuals, instructional videos, maintenance advice, and parts information, OEMs can help dealers service their customers’ equipment quickly and efficiently.
Simply making these resources readily available will increase dealer productivity and profits and generate high customer satisfaction.
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While most customers don’t expect their original equipment to last decades without routine maintenance and repairs, they do expect manufacturers to quickly fix products when they break down.
Unfortunately, achieving faster turnaround times on parts orders is easier said than done. Harvard Business Review reported that roughly 50% of consumers faced unnecessary delays in repairs because dealers didn’t have the right parts to fix them.
To support dealers in minimizing equipment downtime, it’s imperative that OEMs find a way to shorten the period between order and delivery. Here are a few tips to help you meet the demand for quick turnaround:
Standardize Order Processing Procedures
To curtail the order-to-cash cycle, Aberdeen Group’s recent research report suggests creating standard procedures for quotation, order management, order fulfillment and delivery, and then integrating these into a single portal from which all parts orders are handled.
According to the report, companies that have standardized their order management processes boast 30% lower invoice volumes requiring manual intervention than those that haven’t.
By integrating your ERP system with your parts lookup and order entry software, you can ensure every order received is in an appropriate, easy-to-follow format and seamless move between programs, eliminating much of the manual effort.
Activate Your Dealers
Give your dealers the means and information to act quickly, accurately and decisively on their own so they can respond instantaneously to customer needs.
Not only is self-service cheaper, most people actually prefer it. According to a study by Nuance Enterprise, 67% of respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative.
Making parts books and online ordering are available 24/7 is like short-circuiting the order process. Dealers can find pricing and part availability and place an order in a matter of seconds. This bypasses long, back-and-forth exchanges with customer service and shrinks the time between knowing a repair needs to happen and placing the order.
Manufacture Near Your Market
Many larger manufacturers have elected to open additional manufacturing sites near dealers to expedite turnaround time. The philosophy essentially boils down to, “build the majority of what you sell, in the market where you sell it.”
While it requires a substantial capital investment, moving closer to local markets can save drastically on both shipping expenses and delivery time. Additionally, if a major disaster (like a flood or earthquake) slows production at one facility, the other site can keep the ball rolling to ensure dealers receive their parts in a timely manner.
A similar strategy we’ve also been seeing lately is manufacturing near suppliers. When slow order fulfillment is due to the availability of raw materials or goods, it might be time to consider switching suppliers or moving closer to your existing ones.
The advent of eCommerce has made customers accustomed to shorter and shorter timeframes between order and delivery. To allay dissatisfaction in cases where a fast turnaround just isn’t possible, manufacturers must set realistic expectations for order delivery.
Tell dealers exactly when they will receive their goods as they’re placing the order. By establishing a more generous time frame upfront, you reset the preconception of immediacy.
What strategies has your company implemented to improve turnaround times? Let us know in the comments.
Time zone differences and language barriers can easily strain the manufacturer/dealer relationship. According to a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 90% of corporate executives believe that their company’s profits and market share would significantly increase if cross-border communication improved.
As a company that not only caters to OEMs with a broad base of international dealers, but also works with our own resellers in Spain, we’ve learned that doing business globally comes with its own set of challenges.
Here are a few ideas we’ve found useful in strengthening the lines of international communication:
Use Tools to Conquer the Time Zone Challenge
It’s important to keep time zones in mind when planning for dealer support. Many organizations elect to extend the hours of their operations to accommodate global schedules, but this approach can be costly.
According to Circadian Technologies Inc., U.S. businesses lose $206 billion each year due to factors related to extended-hours operations, including lost productivity, high absenteeism, greater turnover, higher health-care costs and more accidents on the job.
Rather than making your customer service available around the clock to answer calls or email inquiries from your dealers in Europe or Asia, establish a system for dealers to get direct access to the information they need quickly. This could be in the form of a local representative or an online parts lookup system like Documoto.
One way manufacturers can offer self-service is by enabling dealers to find pricing and part availability on their own. When illustrated parts catalogs are accessible 24/7, dealers can search for the information they need, when they need it.
For international dealers in particular, electronic parts catalogs can be the key to ordering the right part. When EPCs are backed by a dynamic, relational database like Documoto, manufacturers can instantly update part information across the system. This means every dealer, whether they’re in Alabama or Austria, will be up-to-date on part changes.
Take Language Into Account
In a 2006 survey by Common Sense Advisory, nearly 60% of consumers said the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.
While using a translation service on all your technical documentation may be impossible (and could cause more problems than it solves), providing a dealer interface in multiple languages is a great solution to bridge the language gap.
To facilitate our customers’ international relations, Documoto comes standard in 16 different languages so all parties can intuitively navigate to important information.
Offer Online Ordering
We’ve seen first-hand from our prospects just how much communication delays can slow down order processing. Ecommerce can eliminate the time zone problem and keep all orders in the same streamlined format, simplifying the global exchange of information.
Linking dealer self-service to online parts orders can drastically boost aftermarket sales, allowing international dealers to go straight from researching a repair to buying the necessary parts with just a few clicks. Dealers can order at their convenience, and manufacturers will receive the order in the same template every time.
As Tim Hultzapple at Zimmerman Industries explains, “Due to language and time zone differences, we used to experience communication delays while trying to figure out which parts our international distributors needed. Now, our dealers can quickly respond to RFQs because they have direct access to pricing on Documoto’s visual, localized interface.”
What solutions have you found to strengthen your international communication with dealers? Share your story in the comments below.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is hearing directly from customers about how they benefit from our online parts catalog and publishing software, Documoto and Docustudio. I recently had the privilege to speak with several current customers about their integration of Documoto, as well as our database electronic parts book publishing tool, Docustudio.
New efficiency gains with Documoto
Several interesting points from my conversations included:
Takeuchi US now processes 98% of parts orders online using Documoto.
Arctic Cat is now able to produce two electronic parts books in a day using Docustudio—compared to the full week it took to finish an electronic parts book using their previous methods.
With the 80/20 rule in effect, around 80% of Excel Industries dealers use Documoto re-branded as Interactive Parts Solution (IPS).
Atlas Copco anticipates a 50% reduction in efforts to publish and maintain parts books using Docustudio moving forward.
While it is great to hear about customer success stories, we continue to keep our eyes focused forward towards future developments and improvements. Expect further refined versions of Documoto and Docustudio that will provide even more benefits to our current and future customers.
We are always interested in hearing from you. What would help you the most in sales after service or aftermarket support? What features would make it even easier to publish and maintain electronic parts books? Please share your comments.