The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere, and selling services based on connected device data has been lucrative for many OEs. Our client- a heavy equipment manufacturer- knew that successfully providing these services required the ability to contact customers. It faced unique challenges because it relies on its dealer network to collect the necessary customer information. Therefore, the voice of the channel was a critical element in designing the solution. The manufacturer wanted to ensure that every customer had correct information in its contact system; this meant having a defined dealer process for collecting the information. It also wanted to understand what best practices some dealers were using and how it could spread those practices throughout the dealer network.
The manufacturer’s questions were answered with a four-phase approach:
- We analyzed sales and customer data by dealership to identify which dealers were consistently good or poor at collecting customer information.
- Our team visited these dealerships to observe best practices and learn about challenges. The dealers discussed the support they needed to meet the OE’s objectives.
- We compiled our findings into a recommended collection process, with additional recommendations for dealer sales training and customer education.
- We took our recommended process back to the dealer network for validation.
Valuable insights came from observing the dealers and interviewing front-line sales and service staff. Our approach included both collectors and users of the customer information so that the in-puts and design of the solution created a sense of ownership of the recommended process.
By listening to the voice of the channel, the OE did not waste valuable time and resources trying to implement a process that would not work for their dealers. A common assumption within the OE was that the dealer service team should be responsible for collecting the information; they respond to the service events triggered by the IoT features of the product. However, our interviews revealed that the dealer sales staff felt an overwhelming responsibility for the customers. The sales team wanted to own the collection process but required a seamless tool to capture the required customer information within the transaction. They also needed better tools to explain and sell the connected services.
The manufacturer also assumed that if the sales staff was responsible for the information, then it should be collected when the product was delivered to the customer. Direct observation of the dealer sales team revealed that this approach would not work. Instead, the best time for the sales staff to collect the information was much earlier in the sales process.
Our interviews with dealers identified additional knowledge gaps about the IoT product, the related connected services, and other required training. Dealerships already using best practices were innovating direct experiences for their sales people and customers to close these knowledge gaps. Traditionally, our client would have tried to educate the customer about the full benefits before the sale closed. Our research determined that the existing sales process would not support this type of customer education. Greater results were achievable if the OE developed an onboarding process that educates the customer after the sale.
Finally, observing the dealer sales process offered a clear understanding of how the systems, forms, and other tools designed by the OE supported (or hindered) their goal of collecting the customer information. Our interviews and observations laid the groundwork for system improvements that were required for collecting the desired information. New tools were also needed which gave the customer access to change their information during the life of the product. Investing in these changes would provide the type of brand experience that the OE desired for its customers and dealers.
Manufacturers often rely on “common knowledge” anecdotes about their dealer network when making key decisions that impact business growth. Our client deepened their most important sales partnership by listening to the voice of the channel. In the process, they learned key areas of education and training for their newest and most differentiated offerings; they developed a customer data collection process readily adopted into existing dealer sales processes; and they began making user-informed system enhancements for seamless processes.
To explore more ways that you can leverage the voice of your dealers to grow your business, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.