Some 10 years back, when my oldest daughter Tara was just three, humourist Bruce Cameron came out with his “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter”, which have since been expanded to 10. If you have daughters, read them. They seemed funny, yet exaggerated, when Tara was three. Now that she’s 13, they seem maybe a little too lenient. For instance, rule nine on lying to the worried father ends with “I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres. Do not trifle with me.” Hey, why the warning?
These rules came to mind last week at the Canadian Woodlands Forum spring meeting in Moncton, NB. Part of the meeting was a contractors’ roundtable, where a room full of loggers talk issues they’ve been having in everything from machinery and maintenance to training and safety. One hot topic this year was dealer support, and the horror stories I heard made me think that loggers need to come up with their own set of rules to hand out to roaming equipment salesmen. Here’s my go at it – feel free to add your own rules, or send them to me and we’ll share them here.
Ten Rules for Selling Me Gear
A low price is nice, but you need to sign off on a checklist of service charges, travel fees, mechanic rates, the availability of 24-hr tech support or phone help lines, finance flexibility, inventory levels, rush charges, invoicing and payment expectations, etc… That few thousand you are saving me on the deal today can vanish in a hurry through downtime, delayed parts, extra charges, and higher-than-average service and travel rates.
I have parts, tools, a service trailer, and mechanics that know gear. You better have a lot more. This is one time where I don’t mind if yours is bigger.
I don’t mind paying a fair bill that clearly shows what the money’s for. Take that same amount, shroud it in mystery, add a few vague charges (environment fees that include other things, general labour with no detail, etc...), and you’ll have an unhappy, suspicious client. Everyone wants cost details today. I am no exception.
I’m curious. I want to see those service bulletins gathering dust in your service manager’s inbox or trash file. There must be an automated, foolproof way to ensure that when manufacturers come up with a fix to recurring problems or defects, I get them right in my hands. If Toyota sells millions of cars a year, and yet can still find my wife to tell her of a trans-axle fix on a10-year-old mini-van, surely you and the manufacturer can tell me about a fix on my $600,000 harvester.
I may wear a ball cap, drive an old truck, and work in the woods, but I’m no hillbilly. I know gear, and I can recognize bad design, poor quality, or a tall tale when I see it (or when I have to pay $10,000 to fix a problem over and over again). If it’s a widespread problem, tell me what the plan is and when it will be fixed. I’ll be talking to other loggers at the spring show or safety meetings anyway, and I’ll hear they’re having the same issues. Then we’ll have issues.
Thanks for flattering me and putting faith in my operation as I get ready to drop a few million for new gear. But what about the tough times? When I get laid off for an extended breakup, and have to re-work the payments, will that be alright? What about when the machine you sold me breaks down at 4,000 hrs with the same problem I had at 2,000 hrs – you know, that problem you told me was an isolated incident, and for which I have not yet seen the bulletin? If the extra downtime and parts stretch my cash thin, will my credit disappear?
Everybody’s busy. Still, a call once in a while just to see how I’m making out with your gear and service department is appreciated. If you see my iron in your shop, or a big parts order for my machine, maybe call me in a week or so to see if it worked out.
In this era of acquisitions and rotating dealers, there’s a temptation to distinguish between loggers that bought gear from you, and those that bought from the old dealer. There is no difference. If you take over a new line, you take over all the customers, old, new, and even that SOB who broke your heart last year by going with the competition. If you lose the line I am about to buy from you, I expect excellent service from you, and the new guy. If you acquire a new line of gear of which I already own a piece or two, I expect excellent service from you, and the old dealer. In short, I expect excellent service.
You or the credit company will likely do a pro forma budget to see if I can afford your gear. Take the part about my final hourly costs, blow it up, and staple it to the top of my service file. That’s what it costs me to wait for an answer, a part (and then maybe after that, the right part), a call from the guy in head office who knows computers, etc… I know downtime happens. Can it happen faster?
This one’s simple – We need each other to survive.
This last rule is actually one of Cameron’s rules for dating his daughter (mine too), but it makes perfect sense here. If a lack of dealer support is one factor in forcing a logger under, everyone loses – the dealer, the mill, the manufacturer, and in this tight labour market, the industry as a whole.
If I’ve missed something, or if I’m asking too much, let me know.
Scott Jamieson, Editor
1-888-457-3155, ext 24