In recent years, the importance of commercial vehicle aftersales business has grown strongly, and with it the need for excellence to unleash its full potential. Margins in new truck sales are eroding, hence the growing significance of aftersales for profits. At the same time, competition has become fiercer, with new players such as Original Equipment Suppliers (OES) and independent retailers entering the market. In response, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) require three pillars of excellence in aftersales: know your customer, unleash your current potential, and exploit new potential.
A. TRENDS IN THE COMMERCIAL VEHICLE AFTERSALES BUSINESS
The truck aftersales business is subject to a number of influences. These can be broadly separated into product and market factors on the one side, and changes in the value chain and competitive landscape on the other. Within this, eight key trends can be identified (fig. 1).
With regard to products and markets, demand-driving factors for truck aftersales services are:
- Goods transportation is growing globally (1% p.a. in Europe, 4% p.a. in China in the medium term);
- The truck vehicle parc is expanding and shifting from medium/heavy trucks to light commercial vehicles (LCVs);
- The average age of truck parcs is rising;
- Maintenance intervals are increasing, as components become more durable;
- Increasing vehicle complexity is driving the complexity of aftersales services.
With regard to changes in the value chain and competitive landscape, the factors are:
- New intermediaries such as insurance companies and service providers are entering the market. At the same time, chains and specialists are putting pressure on prices and margins, and more and more customers have service contracts;
- Share of large fleets is increasing, giving them larger potential to put pressure on market prices;
- Requirements for vehicle uptime and efficiency are growing, also in emerging markets.
B. EXCELLENCE IN AFTERSALES
To face the challenges mentioned above, excellence in aftersales is essential and is built upon three pillars: know your customer, unleash your current potential, and exploit new potential. These can be broken down into 11 key topics (fig. 2).
Know your customer
1. A holistic customer needs management system tackles the challenge of insufficient customer knowledge. OEMs should employ a centrally coordinated marketing approach for aftersales, based around the following steps:
- Identify customer needs and define homogenous customer segments;
- Define a product management service strategy;
- Design and plan a marketing campaign.
These steps lay the foundation for a service and parts strategy. They have a direct impact on the OEM’s market awareness, market share and sales volume.
2. Achieving a sound price/strategy differentiation requires three steps:
- Review current pricing methodologies and systems and establish a stable process for managing spare parts;
- Replace inconsistent discount structures (e.g. for NSC, importers and dealers) with a central discount management system (involving modifying discounts and consolidating discount groups);
- Develop a fixed price and lifecycle pricing strategy for maintenance and repairs, and implement it globally.
In parallel, OEMs should develop promotional materials that effectively communicate their pricing strategy.
3. OEMs should integrate all customer-related information and data into a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) system for aftersales. This should at least include the following data:
- Organisational information (e.g. the name of the key account manager);
- Relevant workshop data (e.g. preferred workshop timeslots);
- All vehicle-related information.
A robust CRM system can contribute significantly to customer acquisition, customer relations and customer retention. The company should also draw up customer KPIs and sales projections on different levels (by product, product group, region, etc.). A data warehouse can provide relevant information in real time to support central and local sales activities.
Unleash your current potential
4. OEMs should look at how they can manage and improve repair times. Consistent standard repair times support the sales organisation and meet customer requirements. If standard repair times are lacking, firms should take three steps:
- Reduce repair times for each work step;
- Reduce procurement time for parts;
- Reduce the voluntary setting of working times.
5. An installed warranty cost management system creates transparency about potential financial risks in the short to medium term. OEMs should follow two steps:
- Implement and interlink proper processes and systems;
- Develop and safeguard the effective management of accumulated data, which will involve consistent data screening, thorough data analysis and implementing an effective early warning system.
Most organisations have substantial potential to integrate existing data (e.g. “Big Data” from data warehouses) and increase the accuracy of existing data (e.g. sales forecasts). This can form the basis for more accurate planning.
6. Service processes should be professionalised. This requires defining and implementing proper KPIs and corresponding systems for managing the aftersales business. Using “as-is” analysis as a starting point, OEMs should define, plan and implement any required actions, employing a robust rollout planning process and effective steering mechanisms.
7. Professionalising branding and labelling concepts is key. This usually comprises three elements:
- Identification labeling;
- Product labeling.
Employing company-wide standards for packaging prevents damage during transportation and increases brand identification. Identification labelling includes the labelling of parts with the brand name and an identification number to increase the identification of genuine parts and improve brand recognition. Labelling defined parts emphasises the brand and increases identification.
Exploit new potential
8. OEMs should identify additional sales channels. Relevant steps are as follows:
- Establish a key account management system for aftersales to realise the full potential of the spare parts business;
- Create a direct connection between company headquarters and key accounts to ensure active steering;
- Set up a dedicated sales team that actively sells spare parts to end customers (e.g. in independent workshops) to boost aftersales revenues.
Ideally, companies should follow the above steps in specific regions and then roll out the concept internationally.
9. Market management is an important additional element in exploiting new potential in aftersales. OEMs should follow these steps:
- Set up and roll out a consolidated margin steering system, employing a “closed loop process” for managing focus markets;
- Introduce a bonus system with quarterly/monthly status reviews;
- Draw up and implement guidelines for steering countries and regions in a professional manner, including escalation processes;
- Design and implement active sales-force training.
10. Portfolio innovation/extensions enable companies to offer new products with clear added value for customers. Besides partnerships (e.g. for roadside assistance, service contracts, financial insurance), the most important growth areas are remanufactured parts and connectivity. As the truck parc ages, demand for fair value repairs and remanufacturing is steadily increasing. Truck connectivity gives rise to a multitude of solutions, setting the scene for enhanced services and new business models such as vehicle management, load monitoring, driver/time/legal management and operations/logistics management. These developments enable OEMs to meet customers’ requirements for solutions that reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).
11. To ensure continuous improvement, operational excellence within the aftersales organisation is a prerequisite. This includes optimising the availability of parts at the point of sale (POS), which in turn reduces delivery time and contributes directly to increased customer satisfaction. OEMs should analyse and where necessary adjust their parts availability, overall logistics concept (local warehouse vs. regional hub, consignment stock vs. vendor managed inventory, etc.) and warehouse densities. This will create a basis for effectively handling spare parts. Managing customers using key indicators such as the volume of parts sales and margin contribution helps to create transparency. Fully-automated analyses form the basis for deriving appropriate actions, such as developing a multi-brand strategy to serve different customer groups and offering tailored solutions.
C. ROADMAP TO AFTERSALES EXCELLENCE
Detailed fields of action for OEMs with regard to how they organise their aftersales and their service portfolio can be defined within an “aftersales excellence cube” (fig. 3).
Even though all three pillars need to be addressed, OEMs cannot implement these actions in a generalised manner. They need to be adapted to specific markets, brands and products. For example, they should distinguish between Triad, emerging and low-budget markets, each of which requires appropriate strategies. They must also adjust their strategy in line with their different brands (in the case of multi-brand OEMs) and vehicle segments. For example, premium heavy-duty trucks offer very different opportunities from entry-level LCVs in terms of the aftersales product portfolio, pricing strategy and margin potential.
With the aftermarket business offering huge potential on both the revenue and margin sides, OEMs require comprehensive guidelines to conquer the multidimensional challenges and create a sound business concept. By following the steps outlined above, they can effectively achieve aftersales excellence.
Norbert Dressler and Philipp Grosse-Kleimann are Senior Partners at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. Sebastian Gundermann is a Principal at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants