Are We In a Golden Age of Information?

Are We In a Golden Age of Information?

Are we in a Golden Age of information? I have to admit that I am being spoiled almost every single day. Every day, 99% of everything I can think of for which I do not know the answer I can find the answer. It is remarkable. I can Google darn near everything and find it. I can search through a “magnifying glass” on most of the website I use. I don’t have to go to the library or “call a friend.”

So that is a wonderful thing. I can get answers to almost all of my questions. But there are several questions I still struggle with on a daily basis. The most important one is “WHY?”

And no, the answer is NOT why not. That is much too easy. It is being lazy. Although I still think I have lazy tendencies most people don’t equate the word “lazy” with me. I do too many things, poorly perhaps, but a lot of things get done. Every day. And be fair to yourself too. You get a lot done every day as well.

But the WHY questions haunt me. Constantly. I have been cursed I suppose because I never got over the “why” phase of my life when I was growing up. Do you remember those days yourself? Why is the sky blue? Why is clear water in a lake black? Or as George Carlin made famous “why do we park in a driveway and drive in a parkway?”    

Alex Schuessler coined a phrase I can’t get out of my head. We have gone from “Paper to Glass.” We have taken most “computer improvements” and moved from a six-part paper form (PAPER) we filled in with a pen and put the document on a computer screen (GLASS).

 I have been involved with computerization all my work life. I took “computer science” as a minor at university. We used punch cards, FORTRAN and COBOL programming languages. I wanted to get a job as a computer programmer but IBM wasn’t hiring when I finished school. When I started in the business in 1969. I was hired to find and fix a problem with a computer software installation. The Parts Inventory, which was managed with a “Double Exponentially smoothly Poisson mathematical statistics model (Phew). I didn’t know it at the time but that turned out to be an unbelievably wonderful opportunity for me both professionally and personally.

Of course, we found the problem and fixed it. From that point on I was put into areas where there were some problems or difficulties or situations that needed to be solved. Looking back, I couldn’t have designed a better training program for my work life as a consultant. I was involved in “CQI” – Continuous Quality Improvement or “TQM” – Total Quality Management right from the beginning. Typically, however, is I had a question that I needed to have answered I either had to ask someone and they gave me their opinion or I had to start my own research. I did both and I had many men who were mentors or helped me along the way.

So today I don’t need to ask anyone other than my phone or my computer. But the WHY question still lurks out there.

I talk to a lot of people in the industry. I talk to leaders, managers, workers everybody. They are normally asking me questions. As in my classes and our employee development business, Learning Without Scars, I use the Socratic method of teaching. I rarely answer questions. I typically flip the question and ask what the person asking the question thinks is the answer. And normally they have a very good answer. BUT they lack confidence. That is a learned response. When we challenge the status quo, and want to make a change. There are a lot of people that are vested in the current methods and approaches. They dismiss your ideas out of hand. Many times, they make it personal and disparage you. In a normal manner we start complying and fitting into the current mode of doing things. That is really disappointing to me.

As a consultant I am being paid for my opinions. As an employee you are being paid to do a job. There is a real difference there. Happily, those days are coming to an end. We are on the cusp of a generational change in almost all aspects of our society and workplace. The Alpha Generation, Gen Z and Gen X and even the younger millennials will not accept the status quo. That is part of the reason for what Sonya Law calls “The Great Reshuffle.” That is what we call in America the “Great Resignation.” That somehow changes the onus of responsibility, doesn’t it? It isn’t because we wanted to have a more challenging job. It is that we quit.

We have many opinion surveys, from watching television with the Nielson ratings to the famous Gallup Polls. We seem to want to have reasons for everything. We want to understand why things happened. Gallup says that employees are leaving their jobs because they don’t feel that they are engaged at work in what they do. I liken that to a tool box. An employee has a “task” that needs to be done. They define the kind of tool that is required to perform the task. Think of a job description and performance standards and job prerequisites. They interview people for the job. They hire the person that they think is best for the job. In my way of thinking they “bought a tool” to perform the task. Then someone teaches them (they call it on the job training) how to do the job. Then they have the employee practice it and get faster and faster at it. They want efficiency in performance. That means speed. Then business establishes performance criteria – they call them metrics, for what productivity should be for any specific aspect of their businesses. One common metric is sales per employee. This is measured in terms of currency. Money. And the common thinking is that the higher the number the better it is. That might be applicable in some areas but how do you think it works in a customer service environment? The higher the sales per employee, that means there will be fewer people to do the job. That means customers will wait. It first became evident to me when we introduced “Call Waiting.” The phone would ring and ring because we didn’t have enough people to answer the phone. Do you remember “Can I put you on a brief hold?” Then we got to “Voice Mail.” We were told there would be a wait but would you like to leave a message and someone will call you right back. Remember that? Then I found some dealers had a radio type of message running while the customer was on hold. Some dealer actually had every call listen to the commercial before the call was answered. I was only 30 seconds that won’t hurt anything. Who are we trying to satisfy here? The company or the customer.

I am asked often – “why aren’t customers loyal anymore?” Or I hear “Customer Loyalty is a thing of the past” To both comments I ask – “What have we done to make our customers loyal to us?” 

My conclusion is that we haven’t done very much to make our customers loyal.

Yes, we are in the Golden Ago of information. We can get answers to almost all of our questions. We still don’t have the answers to the most important questions. What does our customer want and need and desire? Until we start focusing on those questions pertaining to our share of the after-market business, parts and labor, will continue to decline. And please don’t forget. That is where you make all of your money.

I would hope that there is a tingling somewhere in your body. YOU are at RISK. Unless we start to concentrate on making our customers happy more than we concentrate on making money WE all will be at RISK. I think we need to get to work.

The Time is Now.

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Going Digital Post-Pandemic

Going Digital Post-Pandemic

Guest writer Mets Kramer brings his digital knowledge to readers in “Going Digital Post-Pandemic.” 

Much has been written about what’s happened over the past 2 years due to the pandemic.  It has affected millions of people in countless ways.  As we near the end of this time, most people will return to working the same way they did before the pandemic and many will wonder why the change, they saw over the last 2 years didn’t last. Why didn’t the transition to working from home, hybrid or flexible work stick around.   A year ago, in the middle, many people talked about how we would never go back, and yet we are.  

A friend of mine owns a staffing company, when the pandemic started, they, like most, sent all their staff to work from home.  After a few months he made a bold move, he closed and sold the office.  He and his leadership team fully embraced the new remote work culture.  They made the decision that working remotely was more than just a pandemic need, but a viable long-term solution.  Then they did something even more rare, they implemented countless changes to their business process and structure to support making remote work successful.   Selling the office was one major incentive but realizing there was a need to adjust how they worked was the most significant change. 

Unfortunately, this disciplined and proactive approach was something many equipment dealers failed to do.  Most companies, in general, cobbled together just enough digitization of their workflow to keep the business running, they didn’t COMMIT to digital processes.   What’s interesting about going digital is the process is the same with or without a pandemic.  To go digital requires a commitment to think digital first, the pandemic just gave us a golden opportunity to justify the change and see it work. 

When the pandemic started, I was largely surprised how many dealers simply “battened down the hatches” of their company ship.  Rather than solving the problems of not seeing their customers in person they simply went back to doing things in the way they “knew” even though everyone was ready to justify a newer approach.   One key area was equipment marketing and sales.  

For most dealers their approach to listing, presenting and promoting their equipment hasn’t changed.  They provide limited amounts of information through traditional platforms.  Yet we have countless examples of how, without the ability to visit the machine in person, video and more complete machine descriptions helped dealers sell machines even at the height of the pandemic.   Customer committed to buying machines from digital information alone, but how many dealers have embraced this and continued it.

In service, I still see a similar lack of digitization where the justification and solutions were abundant.  How many shops still collect paper timecards post pandemic?   There are countless digital service report and payroll timecard systems, paper timecards should have gone the way of the “Dodo,” yet without a conscious commitment to going digital, they have remained the norm. 

Some dealers have embraced this change, they have looked for way to allow they coordinators and admins to work remote and still be efficient by transforming their workflows into digital.   The amazing thing is, this change is exactly the change needed to meet modern customer expectations for a “digital first” experience.   Implementing digital sales delivery platforms like CRM enable digital engagement with customers and simplify sharing digital documents with customers.  Digital service reports and work order scheduling enables integration with customer facing websites to view work order status and communicate the work performed.  In many ways digitizing service departments creates the level of quality service history that justifies a 10% increase in sales prices, at a minimum. 

Going digital, becoming a digital dealership, requires a commitment from management to rethink workflows.  The benefit is a more flexible work environment, a more efficient process and better digital information to support higher prices.   Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen automatically. 

As we near the end, while many dealerships haven’t changed, many things have.  First and foremost, the customer expectations have changed.  Customers have experienced a new world for the past 2 years and many have sought out digital solutions to their one processes, and found it was possible.  This changing expectation adds to generally improved digital options in all areas of life and generational change.  Customers have tasted the digital future and will only want more.   

The second major lingering change is the expectations of employees.  2 years ago, you sent them home to work remote, urgently trying to keep the business going.  They adjusted their lives and saw a future of less commuting and more focused work.  While it doesn’t work for everyone in every role it changed the expectation of what was possible.  Now it’s up to management to change too.

My concern for many companies is management.  For those managers that didn’t rethink their workflows to support a true digital process.  For those that didn’t commit.  For those that didn’t learn to understand what their teams did all day, the urge to bring people back to the office full time will kill their opportunity to digitize their business.  They will have missed the most significant opportunity in their generation.  

One final example of digitization post-pandemic, online parts sales.  How many dealers who had online parts sales before the pandemic, saw an increase in online orders?  How many dealers saw an increase in orders by phone, email and text?   Your customers can buy almost everything they want digitally in their personal life or even for business, yet countless dealers still have not formalized online parts options.  Most dealer sites still have, at best, a form for parts order requests on their website.  Most dealer websites still only have a parts page with a phone number.  It’s time to commit and invest in going digital first, to becoming a Digital Dealership, your customer’s expectations have changed, as have those of your employees. 

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Data Automation and AI Analytics

Data Automation and AI Analytics

Today, we are proud to introduce a new guest writer. C. Stephen Clegg is a Managing Director at Winsby Inc. where he oversees the analytics division, Zintoro. He’s developed an AI model that shows exactly what your company’s strength and weaknesses are, based on your past three years of invoice data. The model is trained to predict where your revenues, customer retention, and purchase frequency are headed if nothing changes in your approach. It also provides the ROI on Winsby’s marketing programs, according to your customers’ purchases. In his debut blog for Learning Without Scars, he writes about data automation and AI analytics.

Data Automation and AI Analytics

Today, data automation and AI analytics is available for equipment dealers to easily service their
customers by identifying what defines the best customer service to drive profitable growth. The
days of opinions, intuition and guessing to make business decisions are in the past.
These automated and AI driven systems are affordable to almost every dealer of any size to
compile metrics into simple actionable real time reports and forecast the future. This approach
allows management and employees at every level to focus on what the customer needs and
expects while anticipating what resources will be required in the future. The ROI on these
programs is paid for many times over with reduced operating, sales, and marketing costs.
The equipment industry is extremely cyclical and seasonal. Most equipment dealers do not have
the tools, key metric reports and forecasting programs to take action and make intelligent
decisions in a timely manner. They often rely on subjective metrics that are not linked to
measurable operating and financial results. The lack of usable data causes management to be
reactive and always scrambling to solve the latest unanticipated problem.
Successful equipment dealers use AI automated systems and reports to monitor and solve their
major customer service and customer engagement issues which include: employee engagement
with customers, internal operating performance metrics, customer retention and engagement,
and identifying and closing sales opportunities.
If you do not have accurate operating and financial information, you will be unable to allocate
your time and resources effectively to the activities that will keep your dealership profitable and
support your future growth.
Programs such as Zintoro.com Artificial Intelligence (AI) Analytics shows you what you can
expect in your business over the next 12 months. It forecasts the number of transactions, the
number of active customers, and the expected revenues with an accuracy that exceeds 95%. It
also provides specific recommendations on how to improve your growth. This data can be
analyzed by department and by location, as well as overall.
The platform identifies customers that are at risk of being lost and tracks key metrics on a rolling
12-month basis, shows and tracks the key metrics that drive your company’s growth and
identifies leads for your sales reps.
By understanding your potential for growth and your current market position, the program
identifies the areas where you are falling short and where you excel, producing insights, backed
by data, into how to grow effectively and efficiently. The program is also able to identify what
tools are working and which customers are at risk of leaving, and it shows the markets and
industries you need to target to grow your business profitably.

The reports clearly identify sales reps, departments and customers that require attention, so you
have an easy-to-follow road map for growth using the key metrics and forecasts.

Some of the core key metrics reports used by successful equipment dealers include:
o Forecast and actual results for revenue, transactions, and active customers by
customer, department, branch and overall
o Sales retention leads for your sales reps to contact—customers in danger of being
lost
o Comparative rankings for branches and sales representatives
o Market Industry Analysis with the greatest opportunities
o ROI on sales and marketing programs

The following is an example of a Revenue ROI report for marketing programs, such as calling
prospects and customers and sending information to them, distributing emails, and conducting
customer satisfaction surveys, removing the guesswork from whether your marketing and sales
programs are working.

The equipment industry is a difficult business to operate. Zintoro.com, an AI analytics program,
allows you to plan and focus on building your business versus always struggling to react to
customer demands.

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Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!

Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!

Chris Kohart has over 30 years of direct management experience in the heavy construction equipment distribution industry and more than a decade in the technology sector directly supporting equipment dealers globally. Chris is Principal of C.A. Kohart & Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm dedicated to equipment dealerships, private equity investment firms working within the industry, as well as OEM’s and industry solutions providers.  He brings substantial knowledge in all aspects of dealer management, product support, sales, financial planning, cost control, operations, customer retention, and the technology that best fits their needs. Chris possesses a unique ability to translate conceptual models into specific processes and growth strategies, increasing operations excellence. Tonight, he shares some of his thoughts on technology in “Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!”

The thirty-plus years in dealership management roles and twelve years in the IT world supporting dealers globally has provided me with an understanding of how dealership management views the “digital transformation” revolution. No matter the location or the size of the dealership, the concerns are always very similar: our dealership management platform is not ideal, but we know how it works (or we think we do), and we don’t have the time (or money) to make a change; we’ve asked our customers what they want, and the resounding reply is that we need to be leading with current technology to manage their fleet and their business successfully. 

 

How do we get the dealership to the point where we’re giving our customers (they are our business partners) what they need while removing some of the constraints placed on our business by the current business system? How do we accomplish this without breaking the bank or severely limiting operations while the conversion takes place?  It’s an extraordinarily complex and challenging process to undertake, but very necessary. Here are suggestions for basic first steps before making a decision:

 

  1. Ask your business partners:  
    1. Do you use our online tools now? If not, why not?
    2. How do we improve our current digital offerings to you? 
    3. What can we add to our digital presence to better serve you? 
  2. Audit your current business system: 
    1. Are you using your existing software to its capacity? 
    2. What functions that are available in your solution are you not using and why?
    3. Can we find a way to utilize/optimize the functions we are not using? Why not?
    4. What are other software programs used within your dealership today? Why are these functions not being completed within your business system?
  3. Does your current solution incorporate integrations with?
    1. OEM’s: (e.g., whole goods and parts ordering, warranty claim and reconciliation, telematics, standard repair hours, machine intelligence)
    2. Your financial institution, credit card processing, sales tax management, purchasing solutions such as Ariba
  4. Map out and identify every single software package deployed within your dealership. 
    1. “One-offs” that may only be used by one or two individuals.  
    2. Understand why these are being deployed separately instead of completing the process within your business solution.  The higher the number, the greater the chance you are either on the wrong solution, or your people do not fully understand how to utilize your current solution. 
  5. Are your internal reporting capabilities able to meet current requirements?
    1. How many reports run automatically every month? How many are necessary?
    2. Are your people able to quickly generate ad-hoc reports?
    3. What reports are mission-critical for the growth and success of the business?
      1. How do we deliver them?
  6. Review your three and five-year business plans: will your current software support the organizational and market changes you plan to accomplish?

 

If the results to the above points are all positive, and you’re using few, if any, “one-offs,” you are in good shape. However, if the results indicate your current business system is lacking, you should begin preparing to either upgrade or replace it.  Here are some thoughts on decision-making steps to take (in parallel):

  1. Upgrade or replacement:
    1. Does your current solution provider offer a more up-to-date version of the software you’re currently using?  If so, that may be the most cost-effective solution to your problem.
    2. Begin understanding the solutions on the market that fit your dealership today and where you plan for your dealership to be in five years
  2. Cost of transformation (over five years)
    1. Pre-selection costs (all due diligence expenses)
    2. Software (including enhancements and support)
    3. Hardware (servers, upgraded laptops/desktops)
    4. IT services (either internal or contracted) to support the entire IT landscape
    5. Implementation services (everything from data migration to employee training to go-live and post-go-live support)
    6. Add 30% to the above as projects rarely are completed on time or within the original budget
  3. Effects on your customers, employees, and daily operations:
    1. What are the positive and negative effects of staying on your current solution vs. upgrade or replacement?
    2.  How do we accentuate the positive and mitigate the negative?
  4. Net long-term benefits to the dealership
    1. What customer-facing improvements do you require? (Suggestion – for now, stick with the absolute “must-haves”)
    2. What operational efficiencies (ROI) will you gain (people, time, customer satisfaction)
  5. Dealership Processes:
    1. Identify and understand every process in all departments.  This evolution will create the hierarchy for new solution requirements and provide you with a map to compare dealer management solutions accurately.
    2. Chances are, there are many different variations of each process in your dealership today. Your dealership needs to conform to one set of standard processes for every area of the business. Enforce the golden rule of the “standard process,” and your eventual upgrade/replacement will run smoother, and the operating efficiencies gained will be enormous. Your process maps can also become the basis for employee training and system reference, reducing training time and cost.

Replacing your dealer business system while operating your business is difficult but possible if the proper planning is done and expectations are set within your dealership and with your business partners. There are no universal or straightforward answers in making these decisions. If you decide to seek outside help, many qualified individuals can help guide you successfully through the process.  There are plenty of ERP selection consultants; make sure the firm you engage has a track record of working with dealers your size and that they fully understand the industry.

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Keeping Up-to-Date and Current in a Learning Business

Keeping Up-To- Date and Current in a Learning Business

I read this article recently and wanted to share it with all of you. It presents some interesting perspectives on employee development and learning. I hope you enjoy it.

To adapt to technology disruptions and meet the modern-day learners’ demands, many organizations are looking at modernizing their existing learning material.

But modernization is not only about repackaging an ‘old wine in a new bottle’, but it should ideally be looked at as a transformational strategy to deliver business results by creating new and unique experiences for the learners. In fact, it should be embraced as an opportunity:

  • For business leaders to align strategic objectives
  • For L&D heads to transition from a culture of training to a culture of learning
  • For HR as an ongoing upskilling initiative
  • For people leaders to provide learning in the flow of work

Having said the above, modernization comes with its fair share of challenges. In order to arrive at a robust and proven modernization framework that can be successfully implemented, it is absolutely essential to spend efforts on understanding the key factors that are driving the need for modernization. Here are a couple of factors that could be considered while designing a modernization strategy:

Technology disruptions

There are multiple technology disruptions that are happening all around us. Technology in itself has undergone numerous transformational processes impacting the way learning is delivered, perceived, and consumed. While organizations need to leverage technology to meet the need of the hour; the modernization strategy has to factor in this reality by future-proofing the content for new technological disruptions.

Skill Gaps

The Covid 19 pandemic has suddenly accelerated the need for new workforce skills. According to a new McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs, nearly nine in ten executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. Owing to the new generation of learners and needs of modern-day workplace, new skill areas are popping up regularly. Closing on the skills gap and enabling employee growth should be one of the strategic themes of the modernization initiative.

The Modern-day Learner

The profile, preference and habits of learners keep on changing because society, workplace, and technology continue to evolve. While the modernization initiative should account for the needs of the modern-day learner, it should not be limited just to millennials and Gen Z. It should be more holistic, starting right from the baby boomers.

Maintenance

As content owners, one of the key things is to ensure that we are able to maintain content that we are developing. For instance, a pharma company has to ensure that the content is updated as per latest FDA regulations. The other aspect of maintenance is the variety of technology infrastructure that is being used to deliver content. Today you might have a SCORM LMS in place and you design and develop content for it, but tomorrow, if an xAPI compliant LMS comes into picture, the requirement would be to pass data into the Learning Record Store (LRS) of the LMS. The modernization strategy should account for such technology changes and make content available in a format which could be easily transitioned.

Have you come across any other factors which might be driving the need for content modernization? You can write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com and we would be happy to have a conversation.

The author of this article, Rahul, is a digital learning enthusiast and is passionate about helping organizations and leaders solve challenges around learner engagement and student outcomes through intervention of learning technologies. In a career span of over 15 years in the digital learning space, he has helped a host of global organizations and educational institutions in implementing new initiatives around their digital learning strategy.

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The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

The Hidden Revolution in the Equipment Industry

With 20+ years of business system design and business intelligence experience, Dale Hanna founded Foresight Intelligence in 2009 to help leading equipment dealers achieve operational excellence and a sustainable competitive advantage through effective use of real time KPI’s throughout the organization. Recently, Dale has added telematics to his passion and is enjoying the challenge of making oceans of disparate data useful to manufactures, dealers, rental companies, and end customers.  Dale obtained a BSEE degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and has been engaged in many associations serving the equipment industry. In his first guest blog for Learning Without Scars, Dale writes about the hidden revolution taking place in the equipment industry.

Technology is driving a revolution in the equipment industry that we can easily see: grade control, idle tracking, fault codes, autonomous equipment, electrification, etc. While the advancements are amazing and will continue to be, dealers are noticing brand differentiation becoming more and more of a challenge. In this margin-conscious market, we see the battle of the future being fought on customer experience and we see technology is quietly but rapidly driving that revolution.

This hidden revolution is happening in all areas of dealership operations.  Today we focus on how technology is increasing efficiency and enhancing customer experience in the service area, especially during this time of unprecedented labor and parts shortage.

Below are strategies that are giving some equipment dealers a leg up:

 Increasing Trust from Your Customers

We all know trust is a vital ingredient in delivering a great customer experience.  If you are like me, I used to think building trust was an elusive and subjective endeavor.  Chris Voss, a lead FBI hostage negotiator, gave us a formula to build trust quickly and predictably:

Trust = Predictability.

A system that can be configured to your workflow to automatically notify customers at key milestones creates a predictable service experience every time without adding more work for your people.  Yes, UPS and FedEx have perfected this.  You know exactly where your packages are all the time and the moment they are delivered.  It is hard to imagine any shipping company being able to survive without it.  Our expectations for the service experience are quickly reaching the same level.

Doing Business at the Speed of Text

When we do not get an email response from someone, what do we do? We text. According to a research report, on average, people respond to a text in 90 seconds and an email in about 90 minutes.  Adding an integrated SMS (text) platform is like adding nitrous to your service engine.  A fully integrated text platform notifies your customers of progress, provides new quotes, gets instant sign off for additional work, shares inspection results and obtains satisfaction survey results at lightning speed. All the communication history is saved for future reference. With the busy schedule your customers have, who would not appreciate a faster ride?

Self Service Makes Happier Customers

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already happening – we want to do more things online, by ourselves, at whatever hours we want, without having to wait on anyone.  Providing information your customers need, in the forms they need, always accessible makes them feel informed and in control, both are important elements for happiness.  A robust dashboard, easy to use interface, searchable/sortable/exportable data and schedulable reports keep your customers smiling while your people sleep.

Have Your Process Your Way

A lot of service systems were built based on someone else’s ideas, usually from the first few customers the system makers had. Your workflow is what makes your people efficient, and your organization stand out. Today’s technology allows an effective system to adapt to you rather than the other way around. Dynamic dashboards by user and role, quick and easy work order assignment and tracking, Apps for field technicians to easily add comments, pictures/videos, inspections can be required and enforced as a part of your workorder process are all examples of how today’s systems serve you the way you do business.

We Are More Powerful When We Are Connected

So are data and systems. At dealerships, we still use multiple systems to get things done. The last thing we want to add is another siloed system. Any service system today should connect with your OEM system for fault codes, warranty information and even submission, your telematics system for real time dispatching, customer’s telematics system for asset location and hours, maintenance management system to organize all the maintenance plans you sold and your business system for cost and PO information. The more your systems are connected, the more efficient you become.

The current pandemic will end for sure, but our world has changed forever. If we look at carefully, there is an undeniable trend – tech rich companies have done better in general, some has done exceptionally well and taken sizeable market share from competitors during COVID 19. This trend is definitely here to stay. Technology is not only changing things we can see and buy, but it is also changing the way we perform and experience service. Customers will certainly buy more equipment, especially with the new infrastructure bill, and whoever delivers the best customer experience will have the bigger share.

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Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Learning Without Scars is pleased to introduce our new guest writer, Danny Slusarchuk. His first post for our blog is on Cyber Security Incident Response Planning. Danny Slusarchuk enjoys spending time with his family and being a productive member of the community. He serves on the Oklahoma Venture Forum (immediate past Chairman) and Oklahoma Innovative Technology Alliance boards. He leads the Oklahoma National Guard Defensive Cyberspace Operations Element. Danny founded Standards IT in 2012 and continues to be a managing partner at the headquarters in downtown Edmond. He has been recognized as 20 Edmond Business Leaders under 40 and was a recent Edmond’s Young Professional of the Year award recipient. Danny spoke most recently at the FBI’s Information Warfare Summit and has for 4 years running. This year he spoke at SECCON as well. He was a guest speaker for the Youth Leadership Edmond conference, 45th Field Artillery Brigade Honorable Order of Saint Barbara Dining Out. He was the keynote for Oklahoma Officer Candidate School Class 63.

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Let’s understand the why.

Your business is shut down for the foreseeable future and you don’t have the slightest idea how you are going to get back to the way you were operating yesterday. Your customers, employees, and even competitors know you have been hacked.  Someone in another country is extorting you for ten Bitcoin to maybe restore your precious data on their good word. To top it all off, your customers have brought a class action lawsuit against your negligent handling of their data.

Do not let that scenario play out solely on the bad actors’ terms.  It is possible to do everything right and still get hacked.  A living incident response policy and procedure accompanied by routine tabletop exercises and vulnerability assessments can be the difference between surviving and shutting your business down.

The Sans institution provided great cyber security training.  The incident response considerations in this post draw from their Global Certified Incident Handler curriculum.

Your plan should have input from all departments that require systems and data to operate.  I recommend you nest it with your cyber liability insurance policy and have it legally approved.

Now, if you were to pull out as much of the lingo as possible and boil it down to bullets here is how I would state it:

  • Identify the event (Intrusion Detection Software, Security Operations Center Notification, Individual Report, Litigation Notice) (each an “Event”)
  • Execute initial alert roster of Event and establish event timeline using “Event” document for record
  • Determine exposure (add additional resources if necessary and conclude as an IT Governance Council that the Event is contained and did not elevate to an “Incident”)
  • If Breach, exfiltration of data, or other harm is suspected to be probable elevate the Event to an Incident
  • Contact “Incident Response Legal Team” and “Cyber Forensics Team” (both appointed by the IT Governance Council)
  • Use IT Governance Council, Legal Team, and Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Council and establish Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Manager of the Council
  • Add additional technical resources, if needed, to manage the technical aspect of the Cyber Forensics effort and cyber defense
  • Track all time, keep running estimates of time and hardware required to maintain operations during the Incident Response
  • Add Crisis Public Relations Firm to the Council for internal and external talking points and press releases, if needed
  • Use cyber forensic evidence in court or to settle lawsuit and to submit claims to the insurance carrier
  • Notify customers and any injured parties, if necessary, pursuant to regulatory requirements
  • File incident with the FBI Cyber Crimes Complaint center, if appropriate
  • Complete “Incident Response” document(s) for record
  • Add technical controls to Cyber Security Risk Mitigation Matrix
  • Conduct an after-incident review with key personnel and distribute the IR for Record documentation

That was high level steps, and each has significance.  Overall, the concept is to prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recover, and realized lessons learned.  The steps also include adding one-time resources like forensics and crisis public relations.

In future posts I will explore specific sections covered in greater detail that will help educate the reasoning behind the order and specific terminology.  Cyber liability insurance is only good if it pays out when you need it for example.  Yes, there are some gotchas in choosing your protection.

References: https://www.sans.org/cyber-security-courses/hacker-techniques-incident-handling/

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer continues his exploration of the digital dealership. Part 1 of a series, tonight we look at strategic segmentation of your audience.

You customers are only a small part of your Audience

All of us have heard the term “audience” over the last few years.  Long gone is the past association of audience with something the queen granted or with sitcom television.  An audience is no longer a small group of people because the internet has grown everyone’s audience.

Yet, even with the automatic growth of everyone’s audience, many dealers don’t think about their audience as they build their digital dealership.  Many of us think about our customers as audience.   Customers come through the door, call our phones and send us emails.  Our customers work with us daily, weekly or monthly as they use the equipment they purchased, or are looking for newer equipment.   Still, our customers are only part of our audience, even if they are a small and important subgroup.

The broader concept of audience is important for us to consider in several ways.  It’s important first when planning our marketing, second in designing operations and finally in developing our strategy.   For this article let’s start with Strategy, since it lays the groundwork for the rest.

The first thing to think about is how will you define or identify your audience.  What groups of people and companies will you want to draw in and communicate with?   This will vary depending on the type of dealership you have, and will need to be adjusted, as you reconsider who your audience is.  This is called segmentation.

For example, for a few large, well-established dealers the audience tends to be fairly set.  It typically consists of all the users of their brand of equipment, in their territory.  Potentially it might only include those customers with accounts in the dealer’s business system.  Another example is a smaller farm and yard equipment dealership.  Here the number of interactions with each customer will be lower, and the dealership needs to find new customers constantly.   A strategic approach to audience segmentation will be different for both these example dealers, but for both, clearly defining it lays the ground work for their business.

To define a dealership’s focus audience, we need to determine what audience segments fit into your strategy.  Start with these 3 audience segments or categories.   How important is each to your business?

  1. Repeat or Existing Customers
  2. Prospect Customers
  3. Unknown Audience (This is typically where your new leads come from)

Next, consider where your audience members are.

Are they:   Local, Regional, National or even farther?  How far do you want to reach? How will your strategy differ for those near you and those far away?

With all the audience segments identified, and priority segments selected, we can create a strategy for each of them.

For each segment the dealership wants to reach, 4 main things must be considered.   First the message, next the communication channels and third the response method.  The final item to be considered is an important part of what makes your dealership the Digital Dealership, it is the integration of known audience information with each strategy.

In creating the strategy dealers need to think about the message.   This is often the product they want to communicate to each audience segment.  Is the product the machine, the dealer’s experience or something else?   Many dealers think they are selling equipment when a significant aspect of value is the dealership.  When communicating to unknown audience members, they merely provide the details of a machine in inventory, they forget to include the more important value the dealership brings.

The strategy should consider the channel for communication.   Dealers should understand what digital channels and platforms their target audience segments are on, where the audience will see or receive the message.  Channels include traditional communications, social media, email etc.  Depending on the product and the audience segment, different channels should be used.  Don’t use the same channel for everything and assume your message reaches the audience.

An often-forgotten aspect of communicating with the audience is the response method.   Typically, the faster the response from the dealer is the better.  Also, the response method should more closely matched the original communication method.  For example, if people are reading your email, they likely want to respond the same way.   We often see dealers mismatching the channel and the response method and seeing poor engagement.

Finally, before we can look at marketing and operations in the next article, we always need to consider the most important aspect of the Digital Dealership, the use of information. This starts by having clear strategies for each segment.  By using the information already known about the audience to fine tune the strategy, we get a much more targeted strategy.   For example, sending marketing campaigns to customers and prospect customers about a new backhoe, to customers known to have backhoes of a replacement age.   Image if your next email campaign started with “Hi Mets, because you currently own a 2012 Case 580SN, we’d like to share information on this 2017 CAT 430F.

In my next article I’ll continue and look specifically at Marketing and advertising to segmented audiences.  I’ll also post a work sheet for your dealership to work through to get started.

Mets Kramer

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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From Paper to Glass

From Paper to Glass

In a recent Podcast with Alex Schuessler, we were talking about technology and the changes that have taken place in the marketplace within our Industry. I have long used the example of the Steam Engine being replaced by the Electric Engine of how we resist changes. Yes, the tool was changed – the engine – but the methods and procedures did not change for a generation. Changing the tool was traumatic enough for the leadership of the day. They couldn’t handle that much change in their lives.

Fast forward to the current situation and the area of technology. The Large Computers arrived in larger businesses sold by consultants for the most part. Thus, a new tool was introduced to the market. We wrote everything on our usual forms and sent the “paper” documents to what was then called “Data Processing.” The information on the paper was punched onto cards. These cards were then processed through readers and then passed on to the computer for processing. The computer was then used to print a report of what was punched into the cards and processed that was sent back to the originator or the document in the first place. This was a lot of extra work. It was justified in the speed with which it could be processed once it was corrected.

The computers changed and the need for punched cards was eliminated when we had the arrival of “Computer Terminals.” This is the beginning of what Alex dubbed the “Paper to Glass” transition. It is a beautiful description of what has happened in dealer business systems, we have taken the older processes and procedures and methods of writing things on a piece of paper and instead of writing them down we have typed the information into a computer screen, from writing on a piece of paper to typing on a screen of glass. Rather a good precise description. This is exactly the same as changing the Steam Engine to an Electric Engine.

Typically, a generation is described as twenty years. With the dates of the 1960’s as the starting point for computers to the 2020’s we are talking about taking three generations to adapt and adjust or methods compared to one generation in the 1800’s. How smart do we appear to be now?

I have talked for years, perhaps decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer. Have you got it? How much is it? How long do I have to wait to get it? I believe that is very straight forward. These are the same questions I have when I want to purchase something. BUT. The first question someone asks when a customer calls into a dealer to order parts or walks into the business is never one of those three questions listed above. No, the first question we ask is “Who are you?” We need to know that because the first thing we have to enter on the glass is the customer number. It is very similar to writing the customer number of the order parts sales order form. Does that sound like progress? Or have we simply gone from paper to glass? Can’t we do better than that?

If we look at the service department, we have similar issues. We need to conduct an inspection, either with telematics and sensors or a physical inspection, to determine what is wrong. Then create a quotation, which in most cases is an estimate. Then determine the time line for the repair, establish a schedule, assign the work and complete the work to fix the problem. Of course, it is more complicated than simply finding what part is required to compete a repair but that sounds like a paper to glass transition to me. What about standard times and flat rate pricing? What about understanding objectively the technical skills of each technician and assigning someone to complete the job who has those skills?

I can go on and on in this vein.

Today we have a smaller number of DMS providers in the industry; CDK, DIS, EBS, e-emphasis, Infor, JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP, XAPT and others. (I am sure I missed a few) Each of them is based on the Paper to Glass process.

The real dilemma in all of this to me is that when you change your DMS it is not the cost of the hardware or even of the software that is the real expense. No, it is the retraining of all of your employees in the new methods that are being introduced. Then you go through the curtain on never wanting to go through that change again. It was so painful.

So, Alex called this “Paper to Glass” and he is in the Technology aspect of the industry. I think he is on to something very important and we will talk about this more as time passes.

The Time is Now.

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Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer

Five First Tasks to becoming the Digital Dealer

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues his series on the Digital Dealership with today’s post: Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer.

When I started as a service supervisor, part of my job was closing invoices.  On average, I probably opened (and therefore should have closed) 2 work orders per day.  Yet my metric target was 9 days average invoicing cycle   That meant 9 days between the last day someone worked on the machine and when the invoice was sent.  At the time I thought that seemed quite reasonable.  There were always some outstanding items on the work order, or more commonly I was too busy to close them faster.  The metric was an average number of days, so some work orders were much slower to invoice.  Unfortunately, as we all know, invoices sent well after the end of work are more likely to be disputed and less likely to be paid.

Years later, now responsible for all service operations, I started to ask myself where the 9 days came from.  Why not 10 or 8 or 7 or any other number? There was always some reason to be found why an invoice couldn’t be sent yet.   Then I started wondering why, when I send my car in to get work done at the dealership, do I get an invoice right when I want my car back.  Why don’t they wait 9 days to send me my bill?   I came to realize the reason was because the car dealership had figured out how to make sure every part and charge was on the work order before the work was done.  They do this because they won’t get paid if they give your car back before they send a bill, and they can’t hold your car until the bill is ready.

The car dealership had done the work and created tasks to remove all the problems that delayed getting everything on the work order on time.  So, I started the same process at the branches.  Finding out what stopped invoicing the same day and found ways to remove the hurdle.  It included using purchase orders with confirmed values, real-time digital service reports and even just better vendors. We even changed the metric on invoicing cycle. 75% of work orders had to be closed within one day, 25% could average up to 5 days.  This new metric created tasks for people to figure out how to prevent delays and we showed it was possible to invoice same day in almost all cases.

It’s what Ron calls the Art of the Possible.

In 1993, I got my first dial up internet access, via my 14.4 modem, on my IBM ThinkPad 700.  That’s almost 30 years ago.  Clearly the internet has been around for a long time.  Now, in 2021, here we are talking about the digital dealership and still have open tasks and reasons why we aren’t as digital as most other industries.  The truth is, it is possible!  Possible to have our dealerships capable and positioned where we want them to be.

The Art of the Possible, is about completing the tasks you know exist, to achieve your goals.   It might be a matter of getting some additional help to complete the task.  Either because of manpower, knowledge, or technical limitations.  Sometimes it’s as simple as implementing what you already have in existing systems.   Many of you will agree, you have software systems in the dealership with capabilities you don’t use.  Even though it would make the dealership better.

We’d like to help. Make some time to send Ron Slee or myself a list of 3 – 5 tasks you want to complete. These tasks should be oriented toward a goal aligned with becoming a Digital Dealership and from any department. Examples can include “I’d like to allow customers more flexible ways to communicate with us” or “I’d like to store and use information properly to drive sales”.  Send us your open tasks and we will help you work through implementing them.

A few years ago, I went to see a dealer after my presentation at AED.  I presented on using customer fleet data to predict sales and drive sales activities.  This dealer had all the capacity to implement this concept, and even agreed they should be doing it, but it was still an open item on their list, for the last 20 years. Don’t let small hurdles get in the way of being a better dealership for your customers, don’t let a list of POSSIBLE tasks stop you from becoming a Digital Dealer.

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