Executed properly, an appliance service department can serve as a tremendously beneficial complement to an independent retailer’s appliance sales business. Of course, there’s the financial benefit of running a successful service department. But a well-oiled service initiative can also establish you as a go-to resource in your community — a status that only helps to boost your business as a whole.
That said, running a service department comes with its challenges, both on the business and technical side of things. The short supply of trained talent in the appliance service field is well documented. And the ins and outs of the appliance service business vary greatly from the sales side of things.
It can be a lot to manage for an independent business owner.
The success of the independent dealer in the appliance service industry only stands to benefit everyone. And that’s why Nationwide Marketing Group placed a tremendous emphasis on creating a program that arms servicing retailers with the tools and resources they need to operate efficient and effective appliance service departments.
Nationwide Members have been deeply engaged with the Service Leaders Network for a few years now. But Nationwide saw that the potential impact and reach of this initiative was much wider than the several hundred servicing retailers already taking advantage of the program.
“It is so difficult when you’re out there as an island and just a small to medium, even a large company for that matter, and you don’t have the backing or support for what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Mark Pollitz, Nationwide’s Director of Service. “Most dealers and servicers, they’re working with multiple brands, which means they typically have to go to multiple websites to gather technical information and training videos and things of that nature. We’re trying to bring all of that into one place and under one roof with the Service Leaders Network.”
That work came to a head at the recent Service Leaders Network Conference this past May. There, in a virtual setting, Nationwide opened the door to more than 450 appliance servicers from across North America, representing every major buying group that supports appliance retailers, to come together and hear from vendor partners, training programs and the Nationwide team.
“This initiative extends way beyond the banner of Nationwide Marketing Group,” says Frank Sandtner, executive vice president of business services for Nationwide. “Offering education and training to appliance sales and service dealers is something that can’t be limited to just our borders. It’s too important. There’s too much at stake for the independent retailers out there who operate in this space.”
The two-day conference featured 29 sessions that covered topics ranging from field service management software systems, to residential and commercial appliance technology, to manufacturer roundtables, and more. Major appliance manufacturers were well represented, including Electrolux, GE Appliances, Whirlpool, Bosch, Samsung and Speed Queen. Additionally, attendees heard from partners like Corrigo/QuickBooks, ePASS, Reliable Softworks, Rossware and ServicePower, LOKRING, Fred’s Appliance Academy, Master Samurai, Marcone Supply, Reliable Appliance Parts, and SkillsUSA. Sessions were recorded and remain available to appliance services on MemberNet, Nationwide’s Members-only portal.
What stood out most to attendees was the unique opportunity to be heard by the manufacturer and vendor community and get their questions answered.
“It cannot be understated just how much we appreciated the opportunity and time that was given to our service teams,” says Curt Spicher, owner of Spicher’s Appliances & Security. “It was nice for them to know that they are valued and viewed as an essential part of the business. And that’s exactly how they felt and we as a business felt when you have a direct voice with the manufacturers who took part in the Service Leaders Network Conference.”
The Spicher’s team turned the two-day conference into a full-blown event for their service team, inviting staff into the store, cooking food throughout the day, and enjoying all of the content that was available to them during the conference.
On the vendor side, the value of the Service Leaders Network Conference was equally received.
“For over 6 years now we’ve seen our online training make a positive impact on thousands of appliance technicians and the companies they work for,” says Susan Brown of the Master Samurai Tech Academy. “We are always excited to be able to share what we have to offer with people who don’t yet know about us or aren’t sure how to implement online training. We appreciated being able to show what we offer, how our training works and how dealers can take advantage of this new resource.”
While the Service Leaders Network Conference virtual content does remain available, Nationwide’s service team is already looking at ways to build on the event moving forward. Nationwide members can expect to see a service track offered at PrimeTime in Nashville this August. Service Leaders Network is also working to integrate an education track into the Nationwide Learning Academy platform. And as in-person events ramp back up, the group will continue to look for ways to bring this content to appliance sales and service retailers across North America.
“No two companies are alike, especially in the appliance service industry,” says Pollitz. “We will continue to look for ways to help appliance servicers get the training and tools that work best for their business. At the end of the day, it’s all about efficiency. Some servicers are more efficient in some areas, and some are not. It’s our job to identify and focus on those areas of need and develop a program and a process that helps them become efficient. Efficiency leads to effectiveness, and when you’re efficient and effective that’s when you become profitable.”