Changing expectations: keeping up with new tech
Dealers adapting to technology shifts, changes in labour market
By Andrew Snook
With so many technological advances starting to emerge across the construction sector, equipment dealers across the country have to keep pace with changing needs and demands like never before.
What are the most significant changes in recent history? Well for one, equipment is more complicated than ever, which means having a strong technical team is more vital than ever. Just ask Colin Matejka, chief operating officer for Great West Equipment.
“Equipment is more complicated and not because of the OEM’s, it’s because of variety of reasons, so a dealership must have its technical support at the top of their game,” Matejka says, adding that changing demographics of staffing levels plays a challenging role in ensuring the right people are in place to meet customer needs; and that making sure employees are engaged is extremely important. “We are having to adapt as our workforce is spread across four generations. If our people aren’t enthused about their positions, how can we expect them to deliver for the customer? Our team is fantastic and consistently strive to deliver excellence, they all pride themselves in supporting the customer.”
Matejka says that the days of hiring an employee on the spot his tools in his pick-up truck are long gone.
“We have adapted highly strategic hiring practices to ensure that our hires are a great fit in terms of our mission, values and vision,” he says. “Our recruiting and selection process are built on a stringent screening procedure including psychometric and environment fit assessments. We use a motivation-based interview process to explore whether the applicant is a good fit based on their skill level, attitude and whether the position we are trying to fill will give the applicant opportunities to invoke their passions. We are currently rebuilding our on-boarding process to ensure that new hires are deeply immersed into our company culture as quickly as possible.”
Even with Great West Equipment’s strategic hiring practices, Matejka admits that finding skilled workers still poses a challenge since there is a shortage.
“We aim for an optimal mix of highly experienced senior employees; young, energetic millennials who are tech savvy and keep us sharp by asking ‘Why?’ and ‘How?;’ and the generations between who may be groomed for succession and act as mentors to our young employees,” he says.
At Nortrax Canada, one of the ways the dealership has adapted to evolving technologies is by evolving the roles of their staff.
“This is still very much a relationship business. That said, technology has been a significant change to how we do business. Everything from how we communicate with each other to how we connect and communicate to the equipment. Technology can be intimidating, and human beings are resistant to change. It’s because of this that we’ve evolved the OEM support role of customer service associate (CSA) into the role of a product support technology rep (PSTR),” explains Dean Derro, general manager of Sudbury, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. for Nortrax Canada Inc., a John Deere Company. “These individuals are a connection for our customers to maximize uptime, increase productivity, and lower daily operating costs.”
Nortrax Canada has also created another position called the machine monitoring specialist (MMS).
“These are skilled technicians who watch and monitor all Deere equipment running our telematics system called JDLink,” Derro says. “We are able to proactively notify our customers about potential problems without the customer lifting a finger. Deere software allows us to complete certain functions remotely – without even dispatching a technician.”
Matejka says that customers have access to more information than ever before, and at the dealership level companies must develop their people quicker and better.
“Provide them with systems and easy access to information about products, services and solutions,” he says. “Customer service expectations have increased, thus our slogan, ‘service first.’ We believe in this from bottom up and top down in our organization. If you allow the people closest to the customer to make the decision that is right for the customer they will usually retain the customer’s faith in the dealership. The slogan service first is not just our service department. It encompasses all departments, including administration.”
As telematics systems become more reliable, if used correctly, the data the systems can provide can save customers time and money by being able to train operators, notice issues quicker, and plan for maintenance when due, Matejka says.
“Volvo has ActiveCare Direct where they report issues to the dealership and the customer,” he says. “ActiveCare is a reporting system created to increase uptime it is based from Volvo’s telematic system CareTrack.”
“There’s an extreme focus on the customer and customer experience,” adds Stephen Roy, president of Volvo Construction Equipment. “In the past, 10 to 15 years ago, you did basic support… there’s a lot more involvement now in managing the fleet.”
Roy says Volvo CE is now getting into the beginning stages of predictive analysis, and this will assist dealers in stocking certain parts and components.
Another change Roy sees starting to emerge is in the role of the traditional managers at dealerships.
“What we’re starting to see is a combination of a parts manager and service manager,” Roy says, adding that managers will be taking on more of an operations manager type of role focused on lean practices, and that OEM training for dealerships is always ongoing. “Training is constant. Online learning is constant, also hands-on training… we’re trying to bring more home to the dealers. I think we’re going to continue to bring basic training online and more advanced training at the dealer facilities.”