Building a relationship with your local outdoor power equipment (OPE) dealer is key to ultimately building success. Landscape and Irrigation recently asked Stens, LLC about the relationship between landscape contractors and OPE dealers and how to maximize that relationship.
L&I: How can landscape contractors benefit from working with their local outdoor power equipment dealerships?
Stens: To receive the most benefits to your business and its bottom line, it is important to build a working relationship with your local OPE dealer. It is critical that you build a good relationship to create mutual loyalty and trust. With loyalty and trust, you will get the best possible service in the quickest possible time. Many times, a dealer will go above and beyond to provide the best service and even grant top priority for a loyal customer. In the busy season, time is money and you don’t want to miss out on any job opportunities due to equipment downtime. Dealers will recognize your loyalty and, in turn, treat your service jobs with the highest priority to make sure your equipment is returned in working order as quickly as possible. Occasionally, dealers will also offer routine maintenance training on the equipment they have sold to their most frequent customers. This is a great way to reduce your operating costs by keeping your staff educated on the proper care for your equipment.
With all this taken into consideration, you also have the added benefits of a convenient location from which you can get quick access to an assortment of replacement parts and tools that are necessary to your landscape responsibilities. Plus, they are a wealth of knowledge when you need some input on a maintenance question. Or if you have a defective replacement part, dealers will be your source for submitting warranty claims. They will handle the paperwork and complete the submission process on your behalf.
Another benefit that may result from building a relationship with your dealer is an additional source for word-of-mouth marketing. As dealers are presented with questions from their homeowner customer base on their recommended landscape service providers, they are likely to remember their loyal landscape customers.
L&I: How can a contractor set up a service program with their OPE dealer for an equipment fleet?
Stens: The key idea behind setting up a service or parts program is to work with your dealer. The type of program you set up will vary greatly depending on the size of your business and the preferences of your dealer. If you are a landscaper with a large fleet of equipment, it is likely that you have a mechanic on staff. Therefore, it is more logical for you to focus on creating a parts program with your dealer and letting your mechanic handle the service work. If this scenario fits your needs, you can focus on stocking popular replacement parts to keep them handy for repairs as needed. It is also convenient to keep a small stock of the most commonly needed replacement parts on the truck. This way, you will have the parts on hand when you need them, rather than having to drive to the local dealer or your mechanic’s shop area to address the issue.
If you are a professional landscaper who does not have your own mechanic on staff, it is very helpful to work with your local dealer to set up a service agreement. As with the parts program, the stipulations will vary from dealer to dealer and will depend largely in part to the service needs of your business. It is common to see dealers work out a service plan with their most loyal customers that features quick equipment turn-around, often returning equipment in working condition in 24 to 48 hours. Some dealers even offer a loaner program, in which they loan equipment to their customers until the landscaper’s equipment is back in working order. This is a very helpful service to take advantage of, as you need to minimize equipment downtime to remain as profitable as possible. It is critical to remember that, in these cases, the relationships you build with your dealer will impact the type of programs you establish and the benefits you receive.
L&I: What parts are recommended for a contractor to keep on hand for routine service and maintenance?
Stens: Contractors are recommended to stock up on commonly replaced items, such as spark plugs, deck and drive belts, air, oil and fuel filters, mower blades, grease and oil, and other parts that are part of your basic tune-ups and maintenance. You can reference your local dealer for a recommendation based on your exact equipment make and model. Make sure you know your model number and the serial number of the unit and engine to assist your dealer in his search for commonly needed parts.
L&I: When should a contractor refer equipment service to a local dealer?
Stens: The best reference in this case is to read the original equipment manufacturer’s owner’s manual. The manual will contain information on maintenance schedules and will help you make the decision to bring equipment to your dealer for maintenance or repair.
L&I: How can a contractor build a strong working relationship with their OPE dealers?
Stens: We can not stress enough the importance of a strong working relationship between you and your dealer. To help build that relationship, you can work on ideas that benefit you and your dealer, such as dealership signage to be displayed on your fleet of trucks. Your dealers will appreciate this additional exposure and their appreciation will turn to benefits and unparalleled service.
Select and work with a single dealer to build the best possible working relationship and programs for your parts, service and equipment. By establishing loyalty with your dealer, the relationship will earn benefits for you both. Not only will your dealer appreciate the repeat business, but the added value you will receive through supplementary benefits and service quality will exceed the dollar amount that may fluctuate as you shop from dealer to dealer. Plus, you have the comfort of having a dealer who has learned the needs of your business and is willing to go the extra mile to make sure those needs are met.
Stens, LLC is a Jasper, Ind., provider of parts for outdoor power equipment for the landscape market and a range of other industries. For more information about Stens, visit www.stens.com
Jeremy Parsons, product manager at Stens, provides expert advice regarding OPE parts and service via Green Media’s “Ask the Expert” program. To submit a parts or service question to Jeremy, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org