On product quality: The root of our quality is our people and our culture. As I often say, “Products are a reflection of the people that build them.” We’re continuing to invest in training to help our employees develop their skills and to support our culture of having a passion for quality.
As we’ve grown, our size has allowed us to buy more specialized equipment and develop accelerated testing that can improve quality and improve processes. For instance, our engineers are able to simulate a machine going over a curb 100 times a day. This means we can incorporate that kind of use into the design. We’re also using automation such as robotic welding as part of efforts to improve consistency of quality.
We give a lot of credit to the dealers as well. They know what customers face every day and help us better understand how they are using our products.
On parts availability: Our ability to forecast the parts our customer might need is also part of our testing and accelerated testing. We know when and how products wear before we ever produce the first machine.
There are always some surprises and that’s where we fall back on our dealers. Our dealers share information early and we can act quickly.
On parts quality: We follow the same quality and testing procedures for parts as we do the machines.
On product technical support: We are now offering phone and email support for dealers on Saturdays, during the busy season.
On responsiveness to the dealer: In addition to the extended product support offered to dealers, our sales team is also improving our responsiveness to dealers. For instance, in addition to the bigger trade shows we attend, our sales folks are working on a much smaller scale to attend regional and dealer-hosted events, where there are introducing our new products. For instance, a dealer might invite in other local dealers and it provides a much more intimate setting. Dealers are much more comfortable asking questions in that kind of environment.
On recent significant changes: We’ve expanded our product line quite a bit, which has had a positive impact for dealers. It can be tough for dealers to have so many different suppliers and we want to become more of a chief supplier. We can help dealers be more profitable rather than them trying to manage so many different vendors.
For instance, we’ve expanded into the stand-on mower category with the SRS Z2. We’ve also introduced a fleet series that is targeted at municipal accounts. Fleet accounts tend to purchase the “bare bones” specifications vs. the owner-operators who buy the Ferris models with “all the bells and whistles.”
We’ve also introduced suspension technology into our mowers. We know that a comfortable operator is a productive operator.
On initiatives for the coming year: Generally, we’re looking into incorporating smart phone technology. We want to find ways to better use that technology to communicate on all levels, with our end users and our dealers.
For example, with our end users, we are seeing how we can better communicate to have less wasted time when they need parts; how to help commercial customers be more productive at estimating jobs; and how to help customers select the right mower for the job. For dealers, we are looking at how the technology can help them better run their business.