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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