Want to Improve Dealer Loyalty? Provide Accurate Parts Information
Q&A With Brian Becker, Digital Service Parts Analyst
In addition to manufacturing best-in-class outdoor power equipment, Excel Industries strives to give customers a quality owner experience. Their dealer network of more than 1,600 U.S. dealers and over 30 distributors worldwide works tirelessly to answer questions and provide expert service to every customer.
We talked with Brian Becker, Digital Service Parts Analyst at Excel Industries, to see how they use Documoto to provide accurate parts lookup and ordering for dealers.
Digabit: What were the main publishing problems your company was looking to address?
Brian Becker: Our biggest problem was our inability to make changes to our parts books and manuals. We were dependent on our previous provider to make changes for us and that would be a 5-6 month process from turning over material to going live. Our dealer network was working off old information, and that was a big problem when it came to parts ordering. If a dealer can’t be sure that they’re going to get the right part and accessory, it hurts our reputation with them. If a repair takes longer than an equipment owner was promised because the wrong part was ordered, that hurts the dealer’s reputation. So, parts information accuracy is huge for us to protect our reputation and build a world-class brand.
Digabit: Why did you choose Documoto?
Brian Becker: We looked at it from, “What would make things easier for our dealers?” We didn’t have control over updating our parts manuals and it was hurting our dealers to not have current information. We looked at a couple of other vendors, but Digabit was the only one we moved forward with to do a demo. Documoto allows us to update our own data when we want, and those changes are available immediately to dealers. The cost was reasonable, and we knew that Digabit would provide an account team to help with training our team and transitioning our information.
Digabit: How is your company using Documoto?
Brian Becker: Mainly we use it as our parts lookup system for our dealers and internal users, which includes our service techs, parts customer service reps and territory managers. Our dealers can go in, look up a part, and find all the information they need in in a fraction of the time. Most importantly, what they see is right. We have service information, bulletins, and service procedures stored in the cloud library. And, our service techs are spread out across the country and are rarely in the same room, so we use Documoto for knowledge-sharing that helps service techs communicate issues that they are seeing out in the filed.
Digabit: What is one way your dealers use Documoto that was surprising to you?
Brian Becker: Our website lists information on our current products but once that product is no longer in production, it’s off the website and inaccessible. Many times, a customer will come in with a 5-year-old mower and want to buy something like a mulch kit, or lights, or other accessories. The only way to find out what those parts are and whether they’re still available was to look at our whole-good price list archives. Our dealers used to have to find creative ways to have that information handy. Now, they can do that with a few clicks of a mouse instead of having to take a lot of time to track it down.
Digabit: Can you give us an example of how Documoto improved dealer performance?
Brian Becker: I can’t say enough about how huge it is to have better accuracy of the parts manuals and the documents. And our dealers really appreciated the amplified search capabilities. When you run a search, you can see everything that is related to that part number. They don’t have to go hunting for stuff and they don’t have to wonder if they’re looking for the right thing. As long as they type in the right number, and we’ve done our jobs correctly with the information on the backend, they can get exactly what they need.
Digabit: What did you do to convince dealers that the new system was better?
Brian Becker: When we first switched, people weren’t thrilled because it was a new system. Our response was, “The information you saw before wasn’t accurate. How often did you order a part that was wrong? Then you had to ship it back, your customer was angry with you and you’d be mad at us. That won’t be a problem anymore.” Having the accuracy and ability to change the stuff, that has won over so many of our dealers. They were used to things not being accurate and not knowing if they had ordered correctly. Now they know they’re ordering the right part.
Digabit: Having accurate parts information is clearly important to your reputation and your dealer’s reputations. Has Documoto helped changed perceptions for you?
Brian Becker: Before, customers returning parts was happening regularly. One incident I really remember is from a few years ago. There was a transmission that was very popular that was labeled wrong in our parts manuals. This was an expensive part, and it was also heavy, so it cost a lot to ship. We shipped several of them out before we realized it was the wrong one. But, because it was so popular and we didn’t have a way to change how it was labeled ourselves, people kept ordering the wrong one. We paid a lot of money to our former authoring software just to get them rush-fix the error because we needed it changed ASAP. Even then, it took another 30 days to get it updated. Every time we shipped it our wrong, we were paying for it to be returned and to have the correct one shipped, and it was costing us a lot of money. Since we started using Documoto, I just don’t hear stories like that anymore.
Digabit: How has accurate parts information improved your relationship with your dealers?
Brian Becker: We made a point that if the dealers found an error early on, that they should let us know as soon as possible. We would fix it right away, and then we would call them back the same day to let them know they should look at it again. They could see for themselves that we had fixed it as fast as we could. It helped them learn to trust the information in the system because they knew we were keeping it updated in real-time.
Hopefully, that makes them compare us to other brands and want to sell ours more because they know we’re listening to them, we’re making changes, we’re committed to having the right information, and we make it easier to look up parts.
Digabit: What advice would you give to manufacturers who are making large technology upgrades?
Brian Becker: This was a big transition for us and we had thousands of documents. For a project like this to be successful, it needs to be a collaborative effort. The Digabit team knows how to use Documoto, but it’s our team that knows our products in and out, and we needed to be working closely together to get that information right. I can’t say enough about how great our Digabit account manager was during the transition. It meant a lot to me to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone or send an email and get a response very quickly.
Digabit: What advice would you give about rolling out a new system to a network of dealers?
Brian Becker: We gave our dealers fair warning that we were getting rid of our old system. We didn’t suddenly flip a switch and have the new system. We also had training materials ready, including short videos on how to search, where to find comments and who to call if there was an error.
Before we rolled it out, I wanted everyone internally to be familiar with the product. If you call in and have a question, the person you reach can answer it, because they’ve been using Documoto themselves.
I wanted to make sure when we introduced it that we could answer questions, because I knew we would have pushback because people were used to something. We couldn’t give the dealers any excuse on not being able to use it because there was support for them in multiple places. I have to count it as a success, with 75% of our dealers using it within a few short months of the rollout. Since then, we’ve had nothing but good feedback, and now 9 out of 10 of our dealers use the system.