Neva Eads likes a bit of mystery and loves research. So when customers come to Razorback Camper Sales’ parts store in Hot Springs, Ark., seeking replacements for old, worn-out parts without model numbers, or searching for obscure items, the parts manager considers their requests as welcome challenges.
Parts Manager Neva Eads and store owner Doug Johnson are pictured in front of Razorback Camper Sales in Hot Springs, Ark. The dealership draws customers from most of Arkansas and parts of Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
“If a customer needs a part, nine times out of 10 I can get it,” she says. “My motto is never give up, whether it be a $2 part or $2,500 part; I will do my best and give it my all to try to satisfy that customer.”
Her quest to meet and exceed customers’ expectations reached a new height recently when Eads became the first person to obtain certification in Stag-Parkway’s new PRO™ (Professional Retail Organization) educational series. Eads completed four continuing education and development modules successfully to earn a PRO certificate, and she continues to enroll in the series’ webinar modules to expand her knowledge.
Stag-Parkway introduced the program in January 2010 during its Business Solutions Trade Show in San Antonio to elevate the professionalism and profitability of RV dealers in the aftermarket. The quarterly webinars include topics such as asset management, e-commerce and maximizing the customer experience; the program is offered to Stag dealers at no charge.
Since its inception, more than 700 dealership employees have signed up for PRO, 810 tests have been administered and 63 people have become certified as of Dec. 1.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results and positive feedback we are getting from our customers,” according to John Spaulding, Stag’s senior VP of marketing. “We knew we were on to something big when we kicked off the program last year and the results have exceeded our highest expectations. It’s very rewarding to see that we are providing a unique and welcomed service to the market that is actually making a difference in the way people view accessory and service parts retailing. The potential impact a professional retail approach can have on a dealer’s business is significant.”
He adds, “I think people are beginning to see and appreciate the expanded role the store can have in a successfully run RV dealership.”
The Payoff with PRO
While it’s too early to determine the full impact of the program on Razorback’s bottom line, both Eads and her boss, Doug Johnson, owner of the family dealership, say they see positive results: Razorback’s parts sales were up nearly 50 percent in 2010.
“In the parts area, and in its run over into the service area, (PRO) makes the people more attentive to the customers and lets the customers know that we are here to help them with anything they need,” says Johnson, whose father, C.L., started Razorback’s camper business more than 40 years ago by adding four Skyline trailers to his used car lot and then discontinuing car sales a few years later and after camping trailers grew in popularity. “PRO really helped Neva to expand her horizons, encouraging her to do more research of products for customers, and make us more efficient.”
Johnson says that Razorback – which is Arkansas’ largest towable dealership – often surveys customers who purchase units from the dealership. About 70 percent report being previous customers of the parts store, the seven-bay service department or Razorback’s sales lot, so great attention is given to all three areas of the dealership. That includes continuing education for employees, and Razorback’s salesmen attend DealerTrack webinars; Eads also attended a DealerTrack class.
“We keep roughly $70,000 in parts in our store,” says Johnson, who notes the dealership’s revenue is about $7 million, up from about $4 million five years ago. “We don’t have a large store, but we do draw from the many people visiting the lakes that surround us.”
Eads is pictured with Johnson, holding the PRO certificate she received from Stag-Parkway after completing a series of continuing education courses.
Hot Springs National Park, adjacent to the city, also draws millions of tourists each year.
Johnson said about 80 percent of the time Eads has the parts tourists need most in stock. That includes Husky hitches, Aqua-Kem chemicals, Barker tote tanks, and Rhino Flex sewer hose kits.
Learning Modules Offer Valuable Tips
But, Eads, who volunteered to participate in the PRO program, says the “profit protection module” made her rethink spending habits. Much like how she approaches grocery shopping for her family of five, Eads is more price conscious since the course and does more thorough research when customers request purchasing advice. By comparison shopping, Eads estimates she’s saved Razorback thousands of dollars in just a few months.
”I’m constantly looking for the better price,” she says. “Sometimes, I can find items cheaper at Stag-Parkway than I can at BR Wholesale RV & Marine, Coast or Tweety’s. It may only be by a couple of dollars, but Stag-Parkway also gives us 2 percent off when we pay our bill by a certain time of the month; so, I have to actually take that into account when I’m looking for a part.”
In fact, Eads purchased nearly double from Stag in 2010 than she spent in 2009, but contends she’s spending smarter and more strategically. When deer season launched in October, she stocked up on furnace parts from Atwood, Suburban and other brands, because customers needed them; in the spring, Eads will stock more water parts because many customers’ water canisters will burst.
“I am stocking heated water hoses now, and also Winegard CarryOut Automatic Portable Satellite TV Antennas,” she says. “The heated hoses are just easier than the heat tape with the water hose.”
Eads says parts kept in the store are customers’ most common purchases. She looks forward to the next Stag-Parkway show to see what new products to offer.
Another tip Eads learned from the “profit protection module” is to keep a log of everyone she talks to, in case she needs to refer to the information later. The class also stresses organized inventory and provides a checklist of where items belong in a store, while also stressing the importance maintaining dust-free shelves and clean floors.
“After that one, I was up cleaning and wiping shelves down,” Eads says. “I was scrutinizing my inventory to make sure parts were on the right shelves and where they belonged.”
Maximizing the Customer Experience
Her favorite module so far is “maximizing the customer experience” because it focuses on improving customer service.
“Every time someone comes through that door, I try to maintain a relationship,” says Eads, who began working at Razorback five years ago and took over the parts department three years ago. “I think customer service is the most important part of my job, and I make conversation with everyone that comes through the front door. Acknowledgement is important, as is staying positive and helping any way possible.”
She says customers are willing to pay for good service, but many dealerships’ personnel do subtle things to turn potential customers away. Eads says she realized customers may be discouraged if she’s completing her warranty work around them, so she doesn’t do that work in the store.
Eads and Johnson also plan to use much of what she learned in the “e-commerce and asset management” modules to boost Razorback’s marketing efforts in 2011 and expand its growing sales radius, which includes Little Rock and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Louisiana. Thanks to what she learned from PRO and other classes, Eads is featuring pictures of the store’s merchandise, like tongue jacks, on the dealership’s website to attract more customers.
“I sold eight tongue jacks in a week after putting it on the website, compared to two a week,” Eads says.
Razorback also is unveiling a Facebook page this month to help the dealership’s 12 employees reach more customers and interact with previous and existing customers.
“I intend to run specials on my Facebook page,” Eads says. “It’s free advertising, so there’s no reason for us not to use it.”
She also plans to share her new knowledge with Razorback’s other employees. Eads says everyone in the industry could benefit from the information offered in the modules.
“It’s never too late to learn something new,” she says. “I learn something new every single day I come to work.”