Observation Deck

Tips and Tricks for Transition

Thriving in mobility's 'new environment.'

As our industry has evolved over the last few years, we’ve become accustomed to hearing the phrase “new environment.” But not everyone has taken this concept at face value. Our business landscape is just that, an environment. It is a living, changing ecosphere that, like any other, requires the right knowledge, tools and people to navigate and survive. Just as you wouldn’t go into the wilderness without the proper training, gear and companions, you shouldn’t face today’s market without the right resources.

Technology: the Ultimate Survival Tool

The amazing amount of technology that has been placed at our fingertips provides abundant tools we need to operate effectively in our environment. Technology directly translates into efficiency and efficiency is the key to success.

One area that has seen dramatic innovation is customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These systems make it possible to tie all of your customer information together in exciting, new fully searchable and measurable ways. Your contacts, financial information, mapping, customer purchasing history, and dashboards of sales progress to goals are just the beginning of what these amazing systems can do. They provide efficiency gains by users in both manual processes and develop shared account knowledge. Also, CRM can improve your bottom line through greater visibility of sales opportunities.

Real time inventory visibility is another area where technology can greatly help to improve cash flow and sharpen your delivery schedules. With a live look in, you can monitor minimum and maximum levels. You can identify your top selling models and stock the parts and accessories you need to easily and swiftly configure your products to meet consumer needs.

GPS mapping and tracking for your drivers allows you to plan out your deliveries and service calls in the most efficient means possible. It gives you unprecedented control over your fleet vehicles and pays dividends in fuel maximization and manpower efficiency.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to effectively advertise what you have to a broad audience with minimal effort. Choosing a manufacturing partner with exceptional electronic data interchange (EDI) eliminates redundant processes that exist between you and the manufacturer. It also allows you to take full advantage of your relationship and bring the full force of their investments in technology to your business. When you choose a manufacturer who is embracing technology in the same manner, you can work together to operate with laser precision. In addition, when you utilize a manufacturer’s online ordering and quoting services, you can sometimes obtain discounted pricing.

A Valuable and Versatile Team

Your staff is your lifeline in virtually all areas of your operation. However, in an environment that demands that you do more with less, your team members can no longer be customized to just one area. This is especially true on the administrative end of your business. Cross-training will transform your staff into a finely honed team of specialists ready for any challenge that awaits.

Online training opportunities from manufacturers provide exceptional value and save time in helping to get your staff up to date on the latest product innovations, legislative updates, and technical service instruction order forms. Local and regional seminars and in-services also provide ample resources to keep your staff up to speed and up to date on needed credentials.

But training isn’t enough; you need to incentivize your staff on clearly defined, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that make your business more efficient and profitable. While most businesses do this with their sales staff, expanding an incentive based system beyond your sales team is as important as cross-training your staff. As you ask more of your team members, incentivized KPIs keep morale high and the entire team engaged in the goals of your business. Performance based compensation goes a long way in getting the results you need from your team.

When you have your team focused on your urgent KPIs, you can easily begin analyzing how effectively and efficiently you are achieving your goals. Within changing environments, you can keep your analysis up to date by having your staff map out their own progress on KPIs.

Communication is essential for keeping your staff operating at their highest levels. Use a customized, frequently updated intranet, live chat and services like Skype to keep everyone connected and well versed on your company’s goals and focused on delivering a cohesive message to your customers.

Products More Important Than Ever

In reality, the standard power, retail mobility ecosphere consists of three separate but equally complex environments: the rental environment, the Competitive Bidding environment, and the cash sales environment. It is essential to partner with a manufacturer that understands this and can deliver highquality, cost-effective products that make sense in all environments. When you work with one manufacturer that can deliver a wide selection of durable, reliable products for all environments, you can capitalize on maximum efficiency.

Rental products should have traits that protect your investment and make refurbishment and service easy. They should be designed to reduce service calls and have warranties and available service plans that match the needs of the often harsh rental environment.

Products designed for the Competitive Bidding environment should likewise be durable and cost effective. They should provide overall exceptional value that includes more than just lower initial acquisition costs. They need to be high quality and should be backed by comprehensive support from the manufacturer like sales, service, marketing and reimbursement services.

With the other two environments providing challenges, high quality retail products can really make the difference for your bottom line and give you positive cash flow and extra buying power. For maximum effectiveness, offer a selection of feature rich products that entice customers and a mix of products that allow for up-sell like vehicle lifts, ramps and accessories.

When you are properly outfitted for whatever the “new environment” has to throw your way, you are prepared to survive it. When you leverage all of the tools and resources available to you to sharpen your business to maximum efficiency, you’ll have everything you need to thrive in it.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Kirsten DeLay is the chair of Medtrade’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and the executive VP of sales management & operational planning for Pride Mobility Products Corp., Exeter, Pa. Kirsten can be reached via e-mail at kdelay@pridemobility. com or by calling (800) 800-8586.

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