LS Tractor achieved the Dealer’s Choice award in the tractor category based on scores from the 2017 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s annual Dealer-Manufacturer Relations survey — the third year in a row and something no other tractor manufacturer has achieved. The first year of the survey in its current format was in 2013.
Derek Johannes, LS Tractor’s chief executive officer, describes what they do to achieve ongoing dealer recognition: “This has been a great achievement because we have every employee focus on delivering exceptional customer satisfaction. We were ranked number 1 in 10 out of 12 categories. The only two categories we came second was in marketing and advertising and return privileges. Our goal is to be number 1 in all 12. We are going to focus on marketing and advertising and return privileges and see what we can do better.”
The history of the company goes back to the 1970s, but the company established U.S. operations as LS Tractor in 2009. Johannes says the company is still considered the “new kid on the block.”
The company started national radio advertising this year and plans to add national television advertising next year. Johannes says dealers are doing their part as well and taking advantage of co-op advertising dollars.
Johannes says he was surprised to not also achieve the top rating for return privileges. “We thought our process was good. We really need to take a look at the way we deal with customers who are dissatisfied with the performance of their tractors. How can we improve the process so that the customers really feel like we’ve listened to them and we’ve done whatever we can to satisfy them. The ‘softer’ issues need to be looked at when we are dealing with an irritated customer. We may do everything, but have we done it in a tactful fashion?” Johannes says.
Responding to Feedback
Johannes says LS made recent changes based on feedback from dealers, such as revamping its online parts ordering system to make it easier to navigate, find information and order. “We still need to tweak it a bit. That’s one area where we got a number 1 rating, but we still feel like we have some work to do. We just introduced it and dealers are getting used to it, but the feedback is that they like the system,” he says.
The company also recently introduced two subcompact tractors (22 and 25 horsepower), based on consumer demand and dealer feedback. They’ll also introduce a Tier 4 compliant utility tractor (73 horsepower) this fall after phasing out a previous model. “The trend is that the 25 horsepower and lower segment has grown and that’s why we needed to bring in these two subcompacts. Dealers were waiting for these subcompacts. They definitely need them,” Johannes says.
Besides processes and models, Johannes says LS Tractor offers its dealers access to management. “Dealers can call me directly and I’m available 24/7. Dealers can talk to me, people in the plant, our business managers and service managers. We have a great rapport with our dealers, so we know what needs to be done and where we need to improve,” he says.
LS Tractor’s current network includes about 330 dealers with plans to grow to 500 over the next 2 years. They’ll do that in part, he says, through keeping the focus on retail. “Dealers appreciate us because of product availability. We offer ready-to-sell tractors — they come out of the containers and dealers don’t have to do anything to them,” Johannes says.
And, what does LS expect of its dealers? “Our expectation is that dealers deliver exceptional customer service like us. If the buying experience and product support is good, you will retain your customers.”
Can the company continue its streak and win 4 consecutive Dealer’s Choice awards? “If every employee is giving 120%, then you don’t have to work toward it. The award will come,” Johannes says.
Keeping it Simple
Chris Murphy, one of the owners of Murphy Brothers Trading, Booneville, Miss., started selling LS Tractors in 2012, its first foray into new equipment.
“We were 9 years into our dealership and we were just a used equipment outfit to that point. We didn’t have parts and we didn’t even have running water at the dealership. It wasn’t so much about selling as it was about buying the right equipment,” Murphy says.
He says they turned down other manufacturers, not because they weren’t solid brands, but because of staffing. They have just 5 employees, including Murphy and his brother. “It’s about ‘keep it simple stupid!’ The more product lines we represent, the more manpower is required to do an exceptional job in customer service,” Murphy says.
For instance, he doesn’t have to take extra time during the sales process talking about options because many come standard on LS Tractors, such as grill guards and draw bars.
He stocks about 20-40 tractors at any given time. He says he is able to get inventory quickly from LS, but doesn’t rely on that. “There is nothing worse for a salesperson than when you are ready to have someone sign on the dotted line and then you have to tell the customer you have to order it,” Murphy says.
LS also offers advantages over competitors’ models that keep sales flowing, such as higher weight, better warranty and more features for a better price.
Murphy Brothers also carries Yanmar construction equipment and attachments from Atlas Copco, Bush-Whacker, Farm King, LMC Ag, Taylor-Pittsburgh and others. The dealership recently built a new facility — with running water, Murphy jokes — but says they will stay focused on one tractor line. “My future is with LS,” he says.