Electrolux technical trainer James Drew (blue shirt) leads a hands-on Training Camp session.
BrandSource’s first-ever Factory Technical Training Camp
By Andy Kriege and Alan Wolf, YSN
Since its inception more than half a century ago, AVB has been an advocate for self-servicing appliance dealers across the country.
But challenges have long since mounted for the 75% of BrandSource members who perform their own repairs, including increasingly complex products, vendor-specific parts, inadequate billing rates and a dearth of qualified technicians. Together, these industry forces have rendered many members’ service departments break-even propositions at best and a mere labor of love at worst.
Committed to the concept of profitable repair work, AVB BrandSource has aggressively responded to recent service industry hurdles with a host of industry-first initiatives. These include the formation of a member-run National Service Committee, the creation of a comprehensive Service Playbook manual, the forging of strategic partnerships with trade groups, training academies and parts suppliers, and the establishment of a dedicated AVB service wing called ServiceSource.
The latter, under the leadership of industry veteran Paul MacDonald, has provided members with in-depth trainings, best-practice seminars, how-to articles and regular “ServiceSource Thursday” Town Halls with manufacturers and supplier partners. The effort gained added momentum last spring with the industry’s first-ever Institute of Service Management (ISM), an intensive, 10-hour training and certification program for service department managers that ran concurrently with the 2023 Summit.
More recently, MacDonald pushed the envelope further still by helping to conceive and organize ServiceSource’s debut Factory Technical Training Camp, an exclusive AVB event designed to improve technicians’ diagnostic and customer service skills while providing networking opportunities with other professionals.
The three-day retreat, held this past September at the Franklin, Mass.-based headquarters of AVB affiliate New England Appliance Group (NEAG), brought 50 service technicians representing members of BrandSource, NEAG and Northeast affiliate Intercounty Appliance Cooperative (IAC) together with trainers from GE, Electrolux, Whirlpool, Samsung and LG. The vendors’ hands-on, model-specific trainings and procedural updates, along with special soft skills customer training by Landers Appliance’s Dean Landers, author of the “Appliance Blue Book” and creator of the G.L.E.E.P.S! relationship-building program, allowed participants to return to their companies better prepared and able to share their learnings with their colleagues back home.
“It’s no secret that the frequency of manufacturer hands-on technical training has declined over the last ten years,” MacDonald said, prompting the need for the Training Camp. “Technicians today require current information and training on specific industry brands and models, and more technical direction from the manufacturers as the technology of today’s appliances evolves.”
Brian Moore, NEAG’s director of service and the Training Camp’s boots-on-the-ground coordinator concurred. “So many of the technicians in our industry have not received the necessary training that they desperately need to do their jobs effectively,” he said. “This was an opportunity for this group to receive training from five different manufacturers at one event. It was also a great opportunity for the manufacturers to get together with each other and the attendees.”
Indeed, by bringing together a broad-based audience of national technicians, the Training Camp benefited manufacturers as well as dealers by lowering vendor costs, providing product feedback and assuring a positive repair experience for the consumer, which reflects well on their brand, MacDonald said.
James Drew, a technical trainer for Electrolux, agreed. “This is where the retailer’s brand and our brand become one,” he said. “Plus, the feedback we receive from our servicers helps our engineers improve on future product designs and serviceability. The critical soft and hard skills presented at the Factory Technical Training Camp are as close to perfect as they can be to deliver on this opportunity.”
Feedback from the technicians was exceedingly positive, with 77% of participants rating the experience “excellent” and the balance describing it as “good.” As BrandSource Vice President and Training Camp attendee Jarred Roy observed, “The time spent together at our ServiceSource Factory Technical Training Camp was invaluable. Attendees were able to be with, learn from and ask the experts all in one place over the three-day period. I couldn’t be more encouraged by the energy I saw and the engagement of members with our industry partners, acting as one.”
NEAG’s Moore added that he received compliments for every trainer, including Dean Landers, whose soft skills G.L.E.E.P.S! program emphasizes the Greeting, the Link, the Examination, the Explanation, the Proposal and the Seal. “We think we should be hiring service people just to fix things, but we miss out on a great opportunity for them to add much more value to the service experience,” explained Landers. “When you are there in person, you have an opportunity to connect with [the customer] in a way you can’t do over the phone or even in the store. By engaging them with these simple skills you have the opportunity to create a high-quality customer experience.”
So what’s next for BrandSource’s Factory Technical Training Camp? Following a thorough post-event evaluation, ServiceSource’s MacDonald believes an expanded series of trainings will be slated for 2024 in strategic locations across the country.
Added BrandSource’s Roy, “As appliance technology continues to accelerate, we believe it is more important than ever to bring training of this form to our servicing dealers. Consumers deserve the best sales experience possible and service is no different.”
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.