Taking Time to Prepare Can Make Foray into Solutions Less Stressful for Dealers

I remember talking to a dealer principal several years back and asked him for his e-mail address. He responded that he didn’t like computers, and told me to just send it to one of his admins.

I knew his business was in serious jeopardy, and in fact, it failed a few years later.

The point of that story is to emphasize that we are in an ever-changing business environment. And in many cases today, dealers and service departments are reluctant to get into the solutions business. Some have tried dipping their toes in and gotten burned; others just want to be old-school dealerships. But we must remember that we can’t afford to get trapped in the current way we do business, or we will soon be out of business.

The Reality

Office equipment today is designed to be part of a network’s infrastructure. Devices are no longer output-only or scan/fax/print devices, but now can—and often do—serve as portals for access to applications. If your company is not currently...

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A Day in the (Training) Life: Service Managers Gain a Wealth of Info at Visual Edge Technology Event

I had the privilege of attending the training program that was provided for the service managers of the various Visual Edge Technology companies.

Visual Edge Technology is interesting in that it buys successful dealerships, and then provides back-office support while allowing each company to continue to operate the way it did prior to being purchased.

Because of this, many of the service managers in the room had never met, and many had never even spoken to each other before this program. They had a variety of backgrounds, with a number of them never having had any formal training as a service manager—they had learned their craft the hard way. Additionally, the experience levels ranged from very recent promotions to managers with decades of experience.

The Event

The training program was co-located with the ITEX show in Las Vegas, May 16-17. In addition to the service managers, the sales managers and company presidents were also there for training. While each group received an...

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Promote for Success, Don't Ruin Your Best Technician

hiring service department Dec 01, 2020

At some point in almost every service manager’s career, the need to promote someone to the position of service supervisor arises. By the time we need to promote someone, we are normally so busy that we don’t have much time to invest in the process.

What happens many times is we find our best technician, and we tell them that they are going to be the supervisor. We then wish them the best as we walk away. Too many times, that is where the process ends. This often results in an unqualified supervisor who has been set up to fail, and we may have ruined—or lost—our best technician.

There are a number of reasons this is not an optimal approach. First, just because someone is the best technician, it doesn’t mean he or she has the needed qualifications to succeed as a supervisor. The individual may not even desire to be a supervisor but may take the position expecting the training and support that will lead to success. Without that training, the tech is now in...

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Managed Print Services and the Service Department

In talking with service managers over the last decade, I have found a variety of opinions about Managed Print Services (MPS).  Some service managers have found it to be a profitable addition to their revenue stream.  Others find it difficult to manage due to the wide variety of equipment and the difficulty in becoming proficient at supporting a multitude of brands and models.  Some see it as an unprofitable nuisance mandated in their department.

No matter how it is viewed, MPS is a program that is here to stay.  Sales will continue to sell the program and service will have to continue to support it.  The need then is to find ways to make it both manageable and profitable.

We will discuss several challenges to the service department created by an MPS program.  We will also look for steps to take to improve the serviceability of a contract and profitability.

The Challenges

A typical prospect for MPS may have a wide variety of makes and models.  In...

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Secure the Recurring Revenue

In our industry, the most important area for the profitability and survival of the company stems from the recurring revenue in the service department. When considering the trends in our industry for the future, this topic deserves serious attention.—dealers that fail to secure the revenue stream properly are most at risk for failure.

What Does it Mean

When we are talking about securing the revenue stream, we are talking about creating a binding support agreement for the duration of the equipment lease. I know some dealers do not like to build the service into the lease, but failing to do so diminishes the value of the dealership and does not provide any future security for the company.

I am not suggesting pre-funding the service component of the lease, and most leasing companies no longer offer that as an option. When valuing your dealership, a pre-funded service contract is viewed as a liability rather than as an asset.

Building Value

When you build your service contract into...

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Forecasting the Future of Service: Looking at Changes Needed for Success

Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent time with some of the best-known consultants and analysts in our industry, both in person and through attending the training and webinars they produce. In off-the-record comments, the most-common fear about the industry and financial models we know today is that they have a limited lifetime left. On a webinar recently, I asked the presenter what the changes he described would do to the service model we use today, and he said that things would be okay for the next four to five years.

There are several challenges facing service that are starting to impact our industry now, and they will continue to accelerate in the future. Let’s take a look at some of them and what we can do to protect our businesses.

Declining Print Volume

While there is generally fluctuation from year to year, the overall trend in printing is down in most segments of our industry. The only segment that shows real growth is in the high-volume and industrial print...

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Using Social Media to Grow and Strengthen Your Business

hiring sales social media Dec 01, 2020

One thing I’ve noticed while teaching a BTA service management course is that many service managers are not active on social media, either professionally or for their companies. Many don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, and any other social media they have is strictly personal. Among the technicians, there is a wide range of involvement as well.

It is important that company employees have an active role in social media, especially managers. Let’s discuss some of the reasons for this.

Why Social Media Matters in Sales

In general, buyers use online resources more than ever. They complete much of their research and decision making before the sales representatives even know there might be an opportunity.

Among the information that buyers consider is the public persona of the company. They look at the company’s website, Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and also look at what the employees post.

Buyers look for independent reviews of the company and the...

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Servicing Your Own Future: Exploring New Roadways to Information for Service Managers

Over my 30-plus years in various roles within our industry, one common issue I’ve seen is the need for service managers to share knowledge. In my travels, working with two different manufacturers, I saw dealers constantly struggling to re-invent the wheel.

I became convinced that individual service managers, and our industry as a whole, had the opportunity to get better if there was a way for them to share ideas.

In most cases, the opportunities are not open to service managers. I attend BTA events regularly and there are two things I notice: there isn’t much content for service managers, and there are not many service managers attending even when there is content available. I do see owners and sales managers all the time, yet service generates the majority of the profit in a dealership. So it makes me wonder why these events aren’t more geared toward service.

Most Service Managers Don’t Share

I believe that several factors create this situation. Service...

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Get Ready to Face the Future: BTA National Meeting Highlights Major Issues Facing Service

At the BTA National Meeting in March of this year, there were two topics I thought were hugely important for the service department. Let’s dive in and see why they matter so much and what effects they could have on service.

Strategic Shock, Surviving the Inevitable Crisis

The event’s keynote address was given by Ret. 1st Sgt. Matt Eversmann. His name may be familiar since he was one of the key characters in the book (and subsequent movie) “Black Hawk Down.”

He began by relating how he wound up in the Army Rangers and what he learned in his early days. One thing that stuck with me was his statement that the Rangers did the same things the rest of the army did—they marched, shot and learned to fight. He said the difference was they did the basics at a Ph.D. level.

This concept is important in the service department because the marketplace is more demanding and the competitive forces are increasing. Most of what you do, every other service department also...

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The Service Department: Charting the Current Challenges and Preparing for the Future

I want you to think back in time, let’s say 35 years or so. You’re working for a typewriter company. The future looks rosy—typewriters are everywhere, and every company has a number of them, so the demand for your service is steady. The future seems bright.

An announcement is made by a company that makes inkjet printers that are not office devices at all—they’re introducing a new product: the HP LaserJet. Your reaction might be “so what?” Just another fad and people will always need a good typewriter.

You could have moved your business in that direction, or maybe you had the opportunity to go into the copier business and thought “who cares?” Just another fad, they’re too hard to service and people will always need their typewriters.

Then one day you look around, and the typewriter business is dead, nobody needs one, and nobody wants to buy a good one. The service business is non-existent.

The Current Environment

The current...

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