Stag-Parkway Goes PRO
Stag-Parkway recently launched a multi-year initiative aimed at providing continuing education and development programs to elevate the professionalism and profitability of RV dealerships.
Of course, Stag for years has offered educational programs for dealers at its shows through its RV University program. However, this new program – called Stag PRO (which stands for Professional Retail Organization) – is different in several key respects, according to John Spaulding, Stag’s senior vice president of merchandising.
Spaulding notes that Stag partnered with training consulting group Customer Advocate Program to develop a comprehensive, four-year initiative focused on five key areas: merchandising, marketing, the customer experience, sales and human resources. This new training is offered not just at Stag shows, but also through quarterly Webinars, so that education can be ongoing throughout the year.
Stag also developed a testing system designed to show that dealership employees obtain competency in the educational programs they take. Once a dealership employee successfully completes four courses, also known as educational modules, the dealership they work for becomes considered a PRO dealer. (Employees are subsequently required to complete at least two modules a year to maintain PRO status.)
|Garrison Wynn with CAP makes a point to dealers during his PRO presentation at Stag's show.|
To encourage participation in the program, Stag is offering businesses that become certified as PRO dealers discounts on Stag marketing programs and on Stag MagniFinder subscriptions. They also will receive PRO branding tools. The larger benefit, though, is helping retailers become more effective in their businesses, according to Spaulding.
“The end goal is to make the stores perform better. We want to make the customer experience better for an RV owner,” he says.
“If you think about your own shopping experience, you have a certain expectation when you go into a Macy’s or a Best Buy. Because of the amount of work we do in the field doing store sets and programs for dealers, we often see a gap in the customer experience between what they see in their everyday shopping experience and what they get at the dealership,” Spaulding adds. “And we think that by exposing dealers to the tools that are used in other retailer markets we can give them an opportunity to become more of a ‘destination’ with a good experience for their customers.
“So it’s about customer experience, it’s about profit, it’s about turns, it’s about margin, but most importantly it’s about customer service.”
|Arnie Capitanelli with Customer Advocate Program (CAP) talks about the importance of good customer service as part of the PRO educational program at the Stag-Parkway show.|
Stag officially kicked off the program at its Jan. 18-20 show in San Antonio with seminars on inventory control, e-commerce 101, and the customer experience made simple. The distributor plans to offer nine Webinars in 2010, the first three starting in April. Over the course of the next four years, Stag plans to offer a total of 48 educational modules through RV University and Webinars.
Once presented, the RVU and Webinar courses will be archived on Stag’s Website so that dealer employees can log in for module reviews. One of the benefits of having those materials online is that dealership employees can study the materials at their own pace, and refer back to them later if they need to, Spaulding says.
The cost to attend PRO seminars at RV University is $149 per individual; there is no cost to participate in the Webinars. Once an employee becomes PRO certified attending RV University training is free.
While a dealership employee must take four modules in order to become PRO certified, it’s completely up to them which courses they want to take. “The reason for that is, we don’t want to presuppose what a person’s expertise is coming into the program,” Spaulding says, “so this let’s them build a program that’s specific to their needs.”
The PRO program was in development for about a year, according to Spaulding, who says it was developed in response to dealers asking for more help in the area of dealer-specific education.
“We have been hearing from our customers for years how much they enjoy educational opportunities through RV University,” he says. “The consistent theme has been: ‘We love what you do, we just wish there was more of it, and we wish could bring more people to it.’ So that indicated to us there was a gap, that something was missing, and the need for more dealer-specific education.”
Dealer employees who attended the RV University seminars who talked with RV PRO say they see value in this new educational program.
Jason Newman, parts manager for Hayes Trailer Sales in Longview, Texas, says he particularly appreciates all of the information given that he is new to the industry. He adds that he intends to become a certified PRO dealer employee.
“Training is so imperative these days,” says Steve Wilcox, sales and marketing manager of Barton Lake RV in Freemont, Ind. “Customers have changed some of their ways and this training seems to answer questions we’ve been asking ourselves lately about how best to reach them. I give Stag credit for developing this program to help us.”