How Equipment Dealers Can Create Lifelong Customers

Following up after the sale maintains relationships and could mean higher numbers in the shop and on the show floor.

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It’s not news that the overall success of your dealership relies on your customers. The more return customers you have, the more stable your business.

Whether they are returning to have their equipment serviced or to purchase something new, creating a lifelong partnership with customers can go a long way. Building off their first visit to the dealership starts with a follow-up after the sale.  

If a customer’s initial experience with the dealership is a positive one, the follow-up will further enhance their opinion of your business and the quality of service you provide. Additionally, if the customer has a bad experience, the follow-up can repair that relationship.

“I greet my customer with confidence and sell them the right products for their needs, even if it isn’t for the highest margin,” says Dan Hall, sales manager at Nord Outdoor Power in Bloomington, IL. “If I give that customer a bad experience or the wrong product the first time, there is a good chance I won’t get a second opportunity.”

Reaching out to customers is a good way to increase your chances at that second opportunity—and future sales and service dollars. Scott Jardine, a 2010 Dealers in Excellence award winner and owner of Arn’s Equipment Ltd. in Calgary, AB, Canada, recently saw they were missing opportunities by not following up after sales and service received.

“For a long time we were missing opportunities for extra sales and service work and customers were going elsewhere,” explains Jardine. “We realized we needed to remind them of necessary maintenance. By bringing them in for service we get that extra work for the shop and another opportunity to sell them parts, accessories or maybe another unit.”

Following up with customers to get them in the shop can also increase their level of satisfaction with the equipment purchased. Bringing in equipment for regular maintenance can extend the life of the product considerably. Hall says he thinks a quality piece of equipment is what brings customers back. Jardine agrees and says proper maintenance lets a quality product shine trough.

“We have heard from several customers about certain pieces of equipment they think aren’t lasting long enough,” says Jardine. “We have to be the ones to tell them they are missing the necessary maintenance needed to get full life out of their machine. We were feeling like we weren’t offering good customer service because the unit didn’t perform as well or give them the longevity and value for their money.”

You need a system

Having a system for how to follow up with customers ensures that it is done properly. Being consistent in your efforts to maintain those relationships means more and stronger partnerships. Jardine has recently decided to take a more serious approach to follow-up after the sale.

Each of Jardine’s salespeople has a list of customers for whom they are responsible for managing the follow-up. They are responsible for building those relationships and ensuring that customers have received everything they need as far as service and product.  A written dialogue was developed to guide staff in completing their follow-up calls.

“We had the staff sit down and write out a dialogue so at least the first 30 seconds of every conversation is consistent,” says Jardine. “If they can start out with a planned dialogue, then we can make sure the important stuff is covered, and from there see where the conversation goes. The most important thing is that it makes them more comfortable.”

Once the scripts were created, employees practiced the dialogue with each other. Having written it themselves and practiced together, the script now feels less scripted when they give customers a call.

Currently, sales staff is tracking their calls manually with a checkmark and date after each account. In the future, Jardine will be using new features in development from c-Systems Software for customer relationship management (learn about the c-Systems program in the sidebar on this page).

While Jardine is focusing on keeping in contact with customers through phone calls, there are several approaches you can take. Hall uses a multi-pronged approach. “I follow up with Christmas cards, thank you notes, and of course phone calls. We also have customer appreciation days that receive good reviews,” says Hall. “We want to do whatever we can to gain their trust and confidence. That way, not only do they return for service and products, but they tell their friends to come see us, too.”

Jardine wants not only the customers’ trust and confidence, but also to keep track of their doings so he can learn how to improve how he conducts business, and know that he is doing all he can to get the sale.

“We want to be involved in everything that’s going on in the industry,” says Jardine. “I want to know if a customer is looking for a mower and if they bought from a competitor. I want to know that we talked to him, showed him our offering, and that we were in the game and had a chance. I want to have a chance at every sale and that’s where I am hoping these relationships will lead.”

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