The lack of dealer training is not just a challenge in the powersports industry; it’s an opportunity for lenders to gain marketshare — considering few lenders offer a defined dealer training program — said Chris Clovis, owner and operator of Freedom EuroCycle Las Vegas.
“If a lender were to ask me, ‘What are the three most important things we can do as a lender?’, my answer would be speed, communication, and flexibility — that’s where we struggle,” Clovis told attendees at PowerSports Finance 2016. Lenders are either too slow to respond or don’t communicate, he said.
On-site dealer visits from banks and financial institutions are “a waste of time,” added Chris Rice, regional general manager at RideNow Powersports. “Receiving promotional gift items from lender partners is nice, but what dealers really want is training,” he added. “There’s a lot of things I do in a given day, and the last thing we want to see is a lender come into our dealership, sit down with some donuts, and waste our time.”
Lenders need to have a better understanding of what happens on the ground, Rice added. “This is where your loan meets the customer, and there are some challenges when that takes place. I would say since 1995 — since I’ve been doing this — I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen any off-site or on-site assistance from a lender.”
Difficulties of Dealer Training
Despite the apparent need, dealer training is difficult for many financial providers to offer — particularly for smaller lenders who lack the financial resources to establish a defined program, said Donal Hummer Jr., president and chief executive at ThunderRoad Financial.
Dealer training programs can be expensive to set up and maintain, he said. “It gets even more complicated if you have dealers in multiple locations or venues that are selling multiple product lines,” Hummer added. “In the end, I feel the effort is well worth the cost and time, as it makes for a more productive and easier process for the dealer.”
ThunderRoad Financial, for example, offers a comprehensive dealer training handbook to dealers when they sign on to work with ThunderRoad, Hummer said. “It covers all kinds of things, including contract and document preparation, navigating the portal interface, and fraudulent transactions,” he said. If the dealer requires additional assistance, ThunderRoad provides web chats, webinars, and real-time agents to walk a dealer through issues or questions.
“The primary roadblock to creating a training strategy is the research needed to ensure you are designing the proper training curriculum for the right audience,” added Keith Mait, vice president and industry leader for Synchrony Financial’s powersports business. “No two dealers are the same and each may like to learn a different way. The design must capture the attention of dealers, and it must teach them in a way that helps ensure effectiveness in what you’re trying to accomplish. In the end, controls must be put in place to measure the training activity and the corresponding actions that you are aiming to influence.”
Dealer training can be beneficial, but the dealer has to prioritize it, said David Goff, assistant vice president of marketing at Westlake Financial Services. “You can say you want more training, but if you don’t have time for it, you’re contradicting yourself,” he said. “We’re constantly trying to balance the yin and yang of the whole situation: It’s understanding that powersports dealers aren’t structured as large as the auto dealers, but at the same time, trying to give that same training and service through constant conversation and communication.”