Empower Employees with E-Learning

Customers are willing to pay more for great customer service. How can e-learning get you there?

Forbes recently reported that 58% of consumers are willing to pay more for better customer service. Expectations of great customer service are higher than ever, especially with younger consumers. The internet, and the wealth of information online, has given consumers more product data than ever before.

The question for powersports retailers is, “Where do I fit in, and what’s going to get me there?”

The answer is: to ensure that a visit to a brick-and-mortar location is more valuable and more rewarding than a run down the information superhighway. That translates to motivated employees with the right information about the products they sell … which means greater importance than ever on employee training.

The Desire to Learn

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in automotive and powersports have provided training to sales staff for decades. For many years it was an expensive proposition for dealers, because in-person training comes with travel costs and time away from work. Often, training to become a better sales person was a perk for only the best salespeople in the store.

In the powersports accessory and apparel business, training has been harder to find, and some of the efforts to create online training had steep price tags, were ineffective or were poorly adopted by dealers.

In this COVID-impacted world, difficulty in travel and a deep embrace of everything online has created an opportunity for accessory and apparel companies to impact sales and customer satisfaction — and to do it with high-quality online training for dealers. Recent research has also indicated that product-related training does more than provide product specs and details; it also increases employee enthusiasm, self-confidence and communication skills.

So, how’s it going?

Rich Maychrich is CEO and founder of Brandecation, an online training firm that specializes in powersports training, with a noted list of clients, including Kawasaki and Tucker Powersports. He has seen an increasing demand for training from dealers. “Online training has moved from a convenient way to update dealers to a critical need in a time when products are becoming more complex and consumers expect their sales reps to be knowledgeable on all the products they sell.”

He noted that young employees at dealerships have been vocal about their interest in participating in online training. “I’ve been told by young dealership employees, ‘I want to be successful in a powersports career, and this is my college.’ These employees see this as a requirement, not just something that’s nice to have.”

Dealership employees like Marco Redondo of Motorcycle Mall in Belleville, New Jersey, take great pride in the expertise they are gaining through training. “For example, we carry Monimoto, a GPS tracker for bikes. I could never have explained all of the features without the online class on Tucker University. The classes I took for Engine Ice and ProTaper have really helped me understand why one product is better than another and what fitment is right for a certain customer.”

Maychrich indicates that there are important keys to successful training programs. “The most important element is engaging content. We find that video is critical in reaching students. It’s more difficult to produce than a slide show, but the difference in impact is significant.”

He finds that dealership employees are extremely interested in content that helps them improve their selling techniques and allows them to explain more about each brand they represent.

The Benefits of E-Learning

With no fees for a dealer’s participation, Maychrich’s programs for Kawasaki and Tucker open the door for motivated employees to learn and grow at virtually no cost to their employer.

“The most important element of any training program is access. The system needs to offer easy enrollment, easy access to classes and robust tracking of a student’s accomplishments,” he continues. Maychrich noted that his OEM clients will often reward students with financial spiffs while his accessory and apparel companies will use physical rewards like T-shirts. In the service training realm, achievements are commonly rewarded with patches that can be worn on an employee’s uniform shirt.

Online training programs can serve purposes beyond dealer training. Brad Turner, Tucker’s vice president of sales, says, “We’ve used our online training programs to ensure our reps are up-to-date on our most technical products and aware of the range of products they represent for our dealers. The wholesale and retail implications of a good training program make it a worthwhile investment for us.”

For a dealership whose employees are using a program like Tucker University, it’s important to create expectations for all employees to take part. Redondo, for instance, is a parts to service assistant, and while his role is to support the needs of the technicians, he still interacts with customers about a variety of products. Some experts advise not to limit the amount or focus of an employee’s learning activities, insisting that the more an employee knows, the better resource he or she is for customers.

Turner expects that his company and others in the industry will continue to invest heavily in online training. That matches the data that’s been published about the growth and impact of e-learning. In 2017, 77% of U.S. corporations had online learning programs; by 2020 that number had grown to 98%.

For powersports dealers, an important data point is that employee retention rates increase between 25% and 60% for companies offering e-learning. Ultimately, the true measure of dealer employee training is sales growth and customer satisfaction. It looks like the path to achieving that may be right in front of us and waiting for the right people to log in.

Steve Piehl spent 35 years at Harley-Davidson, with roles in customer experience, communication and business development. He started the Harley Owners Group and in 2012 was inducted into the Sturgis Museum’s Hall of Fame. After retiring from Harley-Davidson in 2015, Piehl launched his own marketing consulting firm, Authentic CX, which works with several companies in the industry, including Tucker Powersports, Vance & Hines, KIRSH Helmets, Monimoto and several others. He currently serves as a national ambassador for the All Kids Bike program and is a former board member of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

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