Dealers’ Domain

Question: How does your dealership attract and retain commercial customers?

Most of our customers come to us through referral, but we also have sales representatives on the street to meet new customers and provide demonstrations of our products. We carry what we believe is the best commercial products in the industry and concentrate on these customers. We give exceptional service and have a preferred customer program. This includes a 24-hour service guarantee on mowers they purchase from us. If we can’t repair their mower in 24 hours from the time they drop it off at one of our stores, we will give them a loaner until it is repaired. Giving this kind of service requires us to stock a large amount of parts. We give preferred customers a discount on our regular labor rate. We give them preferred parts availability, and we give them a discount on pickup and delivery if they need it. Our manufacturers also stand behind their products and give us and our customers great support.
To give this kind of service, we must keep our prices at a certain level we have established for our customer base. If someone asks for a discount, we can accommodate them, but they lose their preferred customer status due to the costs of providing this level of service.
— Scott Muehlhauser, president
Scott’s Power Equipment, Inc.
St. Louis, Mo.

We attract commercial customers by carrying a line of very serious, commercial-quality mowers.
The retention of the commercial customer is a little more complex.
Commercial customers get priority service; we maintain a well-stocked parts department, and we support their business as if it were our own.
But, I think most dealers do that. The real key to retaining our commercial customer, year after year, lies in how we acquired that customer in the first place.
When we sold them that very first machine, we sold it with the understanding that we were “partnering” with them. Our customer knew that he was not only getting a very good commercial machine, but was also getting the support of our dealership — a commitment that we take very seriously and one that our customers value.
Not all commercial buyers are interested in parts and service support. All they want is the lowest price. They will call every dealership within 100 miles to save a few dollars.
When the lowest price is the only criteria, the prospect places no value on service, parts or the dealership. This type of customer is always looking for a “deal.” He will shop online for parts, he will look to warranty to cover all of his cost of ownership, and he will have no loyalty to the dealership when it comes time to purchase a replacement machine.
I don’t want this customer. He is not the type of customer upon which I can base my business. A voice on the phone, from a stranger who has never even been to my dealership, demanding a low-ball price in order for me to make a sale, is insulting. We will quote them list price and send them on their way. By avoiding this type of buyer, we dramatically increase our chances for developing a long-term relationship and the retention of our commercial customer.
— Roger Zerkle, owner
Flat Rock, Ill.

Most of the commercial business in my repair shop comes from handheld equipment like blowers, trimmers and chain saws. I try to give these people one-day service when possible. If I need to order parts, I order without regard to postage or handling charges. My most frequent commercial customers bring me chains to sharpen, sometimes while they wait.
My largest commercial customer is an excavating and hauling company. We had problems with men coming to pick up repaired equipment and then purportedly not taking it back to the company shop. I stopped the problem by always returning repaired equipment directly to the company secretary.
— Flute Snyder
Hudson Mower Doctor
Hudson, Wis.

If I were a commercial cutter, I would be loyal to a dealer that kept me productive. A dealer that provided me with a quality product and was prompt. But what I am starting to see more on customers’ trailers is equipment purchased with only a consideration for price.
— Rob Leiser
Leiser’s Rental & Sales
Easton, Pa.

We offer our commercial people a discount on the machine when they buy it, and, if they buy it here, we also give them a discount on the parts they purchase.
— Kay Annear
Annear Equipment
Adel, Iowa


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