BrandSource’s First-Ever National Service Town Hall Tackles Tough Issues

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect out of BrandSource’s first ever National Service Town Hall Meeting this week, but by all measures it proved to be a rousing success.

Despite being the very first of its kind, Wednesday’s Zoom meeting drew well over 100 participants, which is quite an impressive number of people taking time out in the middle of their workday. So kudos to each of you who joined. 

The meeting was moderated by BrandSource VP Jarred Roy along with Appliance Director Paul Roth and Member Relations Manager Mike Porter.  Presenters included Michigan dealers Scott Bekins of Bekins and Cindy Conrod of TC Appliance, both members of the BrandSource National Service Committee, along with BrandSource Service consultant Paul MacDonald.

Right out of the gate, Jarred shared an amazing data point that I doubt most BrandSource members were aware of (I know I wasn’t).  Did you know that members’ combined appliance sales made BrandSource the nation’s No. 3 white-goods seller last year, behind only Home Depot and Lowe’s? 

What does that mean to all of you?  It means that as a member of BrandSource you are far more important to the appliance manufacturers than you may have realized. Together we have a very loud voice, and we need to leverage that voice to our advantage.  And that is where the National Service Committee comes into play.  It will be your voice with the manufacturers that will hopefully effect real change for each of your service departments in the months and years to come.

Related: Whirlpool’s New Service Chief Takes on Industry Challenges

A wide range of topics were covered during the Town Hall, including:

  • The ever-growing complexity of the appliance service trade.
  • The need to increase first-call complete rates.
  • The need for service departments to be profitable.
  • Charging a fair rate for your service.
  • Knowing the actual cost to your company to run a service call.
  • Service tech compensation.

Bekins spoke first about how much the industry has changed, with today’s appliances being more like electronics than ever before, requiring an entirely new skill set for your technicians and making it that much harder to achieve the critical first-call complete.  This is unfortunately an area where BrandSource servicers are lagging behind the competition statistically, with an average first-call complete rate of about 43 percent compared to just over 60 percent for national servicers and factory service departments.

MacDonald shared with the group that the current national average cost of running a single service call is about $104.  Of course, that can vary greatly depending upon where in the U.S. your store is located.  This is why every dealer needs to regularly reconsider what they are charging for their services.  BrandSource partner United Appliance Servicers Association (UASA) offers a free calculator for UASA members that allows dealers to accurately calculate their individual average cost of running a service call.

TC Appliance’s Conrod finished up the presentations by discussing another hot-button topic: Warranty service and, more important, warranty service pay rates.  Now that you know the average cost of running a service call is $104.00 — and that’s for a first-call complete — are you still happy with the rate you are getting paid for performing warranty repairs?  I didn’t think so.

In a recent YSN story, I addressed the fact that too many dealers view the service department as a cost of doing business, which is just plain wrong.  You deserve to make money providing service, and your BrandSource National Service Committee is here to try to help you do just that.

When the Town Hall was opened up for comments, it became obvious that dealers around the country had two major concerns on their minds: Warranty service rates and finding service technicians. 

Related: Mission IMPOSSIBLE: Finding Service Techs

My takeaway from the Town Hall Meeting is that the National Service Committee is going to work hard behind the scenes for all of you.  They will try to bring meaningful change to the appliance service industry, and I think they have what it takes to get it done.  But they will need your help too.  Every servicing dealer needs to step up and share information, statistics and best practices.  Don’t be afraid to speak up, the Committee needs to hear from you; otherwise, they can’t help you.

See also: Service Committee Sets Second-Year Agenda

AVB COO Dave Meekings summed it up well when he closed the Town Hall: “I’m honestly thrilled with the content the community has provided, the number of people that joined, and the interaction with the members here.”

Rich Lindblom is a longtime BrandSource member and Maytag Leadership Council officer. He recently sold his business, Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center in Schaumburg, Ill., after more than four decades in independent retail. You can reach Rich at egvrich@gmail.com.