What winter service program incentives have worked best for you in driving service business?
“During January, we offer free pickup and delivery of equipment. We try to arrange pickup on our timetable. Weather and arrangement of trips to cut down on bob-tailing determine the date of pickup. We change all filters, sharpen blades, do warranty updates, inspect the equipment, and give estimates if we find more problems. Since we are a dealer in a large metro area, a great deal of our equipment serviced is related to mowing grass. A postcard goes out in late December to all the local customers advertising a rate for this service for their particular machine.”
— Walter Green, New Albany Tractor,
New Albany, Ind.
“In the fall, we offer service specials for pre-season maintenance on winter equipment and include the option to pick up and deliver for free within a certain mile radius as well as urge customers to “save the inconvenience” of having to worry about winterization of their summer equipment by picking it up at the same time. When they get their equipment back, one is ready for storage and one is ready for use. In the spring, we mirror that promo.”
— Wes Bollingmo, Waconia Farm Supply/
Waconia Power Sports, Waconia, Minn.
“The incentive that seems to get the best response is our colorful 6 in. x 9 in. post card. On the front side is our name along with our promotions: Best Rate: 20% off service in November and December; Almost Over: 15% off service in January; and Last Chance: 10% off service in February. We also have coupons for 15% off the next part purchased and free oil filter with the purchase of five quarts of engine oil. On the card’s back, we list our services, mention our rental and parts departments and our four locations. We list traceable phone numbers, so we know how many calls the mailers generated. We also had a bullet-point stating the mailer needs to be brought in to receive the discounts — another way to track it! We also have a “pre-season” tune up mailer for our smaller consumer products, which is always a big hit!
— Steve Irey, Lansdowne-Moody, Houston, Texas
“We implemented a system where the more equipment the customer brings in for winter inspection, the higher the discount rate. For one unit, there is no discount. For two to four units, there is 5% discount on all parts and service. For more than five units, there is a 10% discount on all parts and service required. Our winter inspections doubled the first year we implemented this. As far as advertising, we do mailings in fall and in early winter and phone calls are made to customers throughout the inspection season.”
— Jeremy Baxter, Great Lakes New Holland,
"Free pick-up and delivery."
— Don Van Houweling, Van Wall Equipment,
“We have been fortunate in past years to continue being busy through the winter months without running any promos. Not sure what this year will bring.”
— Joe Wallace, Somerset Farm Equipment,
“The best approach is to get ‘about to go out of date’ warranty units into the shop.”
— Name withheld by request
“Our fall and winter special is for servicing tractors and getting snow blowers ready. We send a mailer in the fall and offer 10% off parts and labor when our customers spend $500 or more. We follow up the mailer with phone calls. The special is good through December 31. In February with our customer appreciation days, we also offer 10% off parts for the do-it-yourselfers.”
— Art White, White’s Farm Supply,
Central New York
“We offer a simple 10% cash discount for labor and parts IF the customer will allow us two to three weeks for job completion. This way, we can overlap jobs; place needed parts not in stock on free freight stock orders; and give the techs a constant supply of jobs waiting and in progress. It takes a bit more management in scheduling and working with mechanics as they have to buy-in to the extra on/off job switching, but it is bottom-line profitable and builds good off-season business without offering promotions like expensive free pickup and delivery.
— Tim Brannon, B&G Equipment,
“We offer an all-inclusive spring maintenance program. This means that one price covers all of the services provided (price varies with model). We also include as an incentive free pickup and delivery within a certain radius. The timing for this is usually November through February. We are typically covered up with this program doing 600-700 units per winter. It actually gets overwhelming since most people wait until the last minute to get it done, and then need it tomorrow! We’ve tried different discount structures/months, having the pickup and delivery-freebies expire sooner, etc. We haven’t hit on how to handle the late winter-early spring explosion.
— Jim Boyers, Middletown Tractor Sales,
“We have a service maintenance program for skid loaders we run in late fall and early winter. We run ads over the Internet and in newspaper and send out direct mailers.”
— Jan Schraufnagel, Schraufnagel Implement,
“About the middle of October through late December, we start offering to haul tractors one direction for free. This helps the customer get their machine into the shop for not a lot of money. Once the machines are in the shop, customers are more willing to go ahead and have work done because the tractor is already there. This requires our service managers to be on top of talking with customers and knowing where customers live to match customers up for hauling. The way it works is to haul one direction for free, then on the back haul, line up the next customer, each customer is paying one direction, so in the long run, you are only hauling one tractor for free one time. “
— Rob McFarlen, Dave’s Tractor,
Red Bluff, Calif.
“We have offered free trucking, reduced labor rates, no interest/no payment for 180 days from Farm Plan (John Deere Financial). We have also given away hats, mugs, etc. The promotions are offered right after harvest in the fall and continue into the winter.”
— Warren Heitz, RDO Equipment,
“We give a 10% discount on the total amount of the work order during the months of December, January and February, when we are the slowest in the shop.”
— Ronnie Lott, Talladega International Tractor,
“10% off parts, 10% off labor, and reduced trucking.”
— Steve Brueggen,
“Our largest success has come from a ‘free pick-up and delivery’ offer that we typically run from December through March and the mailers are sent to our turf and compact utility owners.”
— Steve Dove, Quality Equipment,
“We offer a winter service special that usually consists of about a 15% labor discount and parts discounts based on which manufacturer we are working with. Some terms and conditions do apply. We usually begin in November and end around March 31, depending on manufacturer and some economic factors.”
— Brent Postma, Scholten’s Equipment,
“We offer good programs for our customers year-round and seem to keep very busy during the winter as well as the summer.”
— Doug Matulka, Benes Service,
David City, Neb.
“What works at our dealership is the direct contact and relationship with our winter-fix customers. The discounts on parts and labor is one incentive, but we feel the more time we can spend going through the customer’s machine gives the customer the peace of mind that he is getting it fixed right the first time. Also, the cash flow during the winter months allows for more service work.
— Dick Onslow, Yorkton New Holland,
“We offer a spring special in February and March.”
— Mike Ferguson, Mitchell & Bourland,
“Discounts, delayed payments and free inspections have worked well in the past. We offer them in December and January. In the fall, we’re busy and by February, we’re getting ready for planting season.”
— Donny Sanders, Martin Truck & Tractor,
East Columbus, Miss.
“Free pickup and delivery included in the inspection rate. The offer runs September through March.”
— Bill Redman, Modern Farm Equipment,
“We have a preseason lawn mower inspection program. We advertise and offer pickup, inspection, service and return-to-home for a nominal fee. We call the customer with anything found at inspection that is not covered by our service package and ask for the business. This package is offered December through February and sometimes in March, depending on the weather.”
— Richard Hanner, Wright Implement,
"We will offer a 10% discount on parts if the equipment is in for repair for the next season.”
— Name withheld by request
“Lawn-and-garden specials on walk-behind mowers typically run November 1 through March 1. We have two plans we offer: Plan A is for a basic service and Plan B is for a more extensive repair involving inspection of belts, bearings and so on.
— Sharon Van Dalen, Washington Tractor,
“We stay busy through the winter without doing any special programs to get the business.”
— Bob Rodgers, Rodgers and Sons,
Cherry Creek, N.Y.
“Free hauling for mowers. Discounted rates and special programs all listed in a convenient book that is on the parts counter and handed out in the fall by the salesmen and technicians.”
— Kevin Cobb, Sydenstricker Implement,
“We run combine, planter, hay and tractor inspections. We will run free inspections, maybe free hauling to get the work .We finance jobs with John Deere financial. We usually have no problem keeping our shop busy.”
— Jim Walkes, Sema Equipment,
“Winter overhauls on hay tools with payment in May, June and July, interest free.”
— Dave Debold, Bingham Equipment,
Casa Grande, Ariz.