Communication training has been a focus in the ride control category, perhaps more than any other product line you sell.
The reasons are not hard to fathom: the function of ride control components, whether shocks or struts, is little understood by the public at large (and by some in the trade too), and combined with the fact that components degrade very slowly, this means car owners may not recognize the symptoms of worn ride control as anything other than signs that their car is aging.
Add the additional factor of the cost of replacement, and the need for your staff and your automotive service provider customers to have a communication strategy in place to be effective becomes clear.
Most training in the market, whether online, self-study, video, classroom or “ride & drive,” is generally divided into two basic components: understanding ride control, and understanding how to talk to customers about ride control replacement.
The two go hand in hand; you can’t be effective at the second without understanding the first.
But the different methods of training have different strengths, so we asked jobber/WD staff and automotive service providers to rank their effectiveness and tell us what the impact was. Survey respondents ranked the methods of delivering training in the expected way, with online, correspondence and video training (the least interactive) as lowest, and ride & drive (the most interactive experience of them all, which can also include role-playing to hone communications skills) as highest.
Ranked from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most effective, combined responses from jobber/WD and automotive service providers rated ride & drive as 4 out of 5, classroom at 3.75, and video, correspondence, and online in a virtual dead heat at 3.
There is nothing like the seat-of-the-pants feeling to learn how degraded ride control components can affect handling and braking.
“Saw the effects to describe to customers first-hand,” responded one ASP. “Technicians felt the difference,” and “Front line staff got to see and feel the differences/benefits of proper ride control,” said two others.
Of course, ride & drive is also the most resource-intensive training method, which can be a barrier to delivery in a country as vast as Canada.
Most importantly though, we asked jobber/WD personnel and ASPs what the outcome from a sales standpoint was in the quarter immediately following training.
The results are indisputable: effective training is immediately followed by an increase in both unit and dollar sales in the category, with many reporting anywhere from 6% to 10%, but some also reporting an increase of 20% or more. (See charts.)
Comments pointed to clear reasons why this occurs:
“Better understanding of the reasons to change ride control components,” aptly stated one ASP respondent. “Being well informed about a product and how it works helps in selling it,” added another. Many identified the fact that providing an inspection process and sales tools as helping boost effectiveness.
Jobber/WD responses were in a similar vein. “Technicians were better informed as to what to look for and how to sell the job to customers,” and “When automotive service facilities just make the recommendation, they see growth in the ride control category.”
“It just reminded the installers to be more conscious about inspecting and to suggest shocks replacement,” reported another.
Of course, there were also a sizeable proportion of respondents — a little less than 20% — who reported no growth in sales in either units or dollars.
No comment shed more light on the reason why than the ASP who reported, “I did not really take the time to do the course properly.”
Maybe next time. (And there should be a next time.)
“When our ASP customers become more comfortable with selling any maintenance service the sales are impacted greatly,” says a jobber/WD respondent. “The key is to review the new practices within three to six months following the initial training. As with any change, it can take some time for these inspections and recommendations to become habitual.”
The last word goes to Felix Bouchard of NAPA Quebec City. “Thanks for this survey. Ride control is for sure a product category that will continue to grow even with hybrid/electric cars coming on the market. Our shops are looking to lose significant sales and market on these in the near future if they are not getting on track now.”
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