The Dealers are the weakest link in this industry's chain... discuss:

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elkimmeg said:
Mike it is fustrating hearing about dealer problem. To me the most fustration thing is most do not know the stove they are selling, worse most installers never open the manual
The system is really broken when I'm th only one that has read the installation manual. Most failed installations are failure to read the manual and follow directions.
How many post here a dealer is writting up a direct connection and is clueless to what is required by code. IT would be refreshing for them to say, don't have an annswer for
you right now but give me a day and I will have a correct answer. I read so many post where dealer experience has given improper or incorrect advice is given. Dealers telling customers not to get permits. Mike we have seen this year after year. you only have to read it. All to often I get to act it out in real life. Mike I'm in agreement with you here but
If all dealers were as conciencious and the participating ones here There would be very few dissatisfied customers. We are changing that here ,but there is too many small establishments to see industry changes.

On this, we're in complete agreement...

Also, to the thread posters, I'm not claiming "the dealers are all bad" ... or anything of that nature. However, what I do think is that, of every link in this industry, from the guy who delivers my wood, to the install guy, to the dealer, to the manufacturer, to God, and then to Craig, :coolcheese: ... the number one point of failure I hear on this board is the dealer. The dealers should be the strongest link, perhapes even moreso than the manufacturers. Complete generalization, but sometimes stereotypes are dead on accurate.


PS, the strongest link in my chain has been Jotul, seriously. Followed in close second by my wood man, who is awesome. My dealer was nice, and well intentioned, but not particularly knowledgeable. I'd say that by the time I purchased, I knew more about stoves than he did... and 80% of that was from HearthNet.
It seems to me that there may be more to it than just that. Don't forget, the dealer is also the last link in that chain before the consumer. The dealer is the one who has the most face to face contact with the consumer and is also the one that the consumer bases his / her whole experience on. It's a little like shooting the messenger in some cases.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not just carrying water for the dealers, I have ran into my share of not so good ones in this whole buying eperience. I just think that it is dangerous to make that stereotype. The other reason that you hear about so many dealer "failures" here is that no one is bothering to post when a dealer goes "above and beyond" to do their job; educate the consumer and assist them in making the right choice. What we all read about here are the stories of frustration when people have no where else to turn for the right answer. I would be willing to bet that there are many more people out there who either do not get bad service / advice, or do not question the service / advice they get and everything works just fine. They just don't take the time to talk about it because that's what they expected in the first place.

IMHO, the bottom line for me is that everyone (consumers and dealers alike) needs to take responsibility for thier situation and actions. That means researching on your own before a major purchase or modification to your home or knowing all you can know about the products you sell and sharing that knowledge responsibly.
That's commendable, but it could be a stiff learning curve for a novice. Where would they get educated if it weren't for this website? The new user needs to be able to rely on a good dealer representing and installing a good product and educating (or providing sources for learning) to the new stove owner. Look at the number of new Harman concerns in just this month. For many of them it sounds like the dealer just abandoned them after the sale. Too many dealers seem to be ready to bail as soon as the customer shows a modicum of intelligence. "Oh, you read that isn't a good pellet? Well, you know more than I, goodbye."

I'm not disagreeing that a consumer needs to be well informed, I had to correct the exit angle of the pipe from the stove. If I was new to stoves I would have blamed Jotul for smoke coming out of the stove, but that would have been an error. This shouldn't be happening.
I agree that a consumer should be able to rely on the dealer. In fact, if you back-track a bit on this thread, I believe I made that point. I'm just pointing out the way it seems to be out there today.

Many dealers seem to be steering consumers in a direction that just leads to their cash register. Once the drawer is closed again, that's it...see ya.

That's why I say that the consumer needs to be on top of their game and do the research before buying. It is a steep hill to climb, but that seems to be the path to an informed decision these days. By doing some research, it also becomes easier to spot the good dealers out there. The ones who may not tell you exactly what you want to hear, but instead have the stones to do what's right and tell you the way it is.
Funny how perspective changes opinion. From a dealers perspective, we might be tempted to stereotypically group all customers as the weakest link. All it takes is a day full of whining customers throwing temper-tantrums becasue they aren't getting service. Most customers are not that way. But when we get hit with several in a row we're tempted to brand all customers as whining three-year old babies. Not fair, of course.

Fact is, all transactions have the possibility of going either good or bad. A dealer often does not know who they are selling to. The customer often does not know who they are buying from. But how can they get to know one another when the customer wants it NOW, at the lowest cost possible? The dealer will probably try to do his/her best. But that arrangement leads to problems. Many dealers are hesitant to slow the customer down. They tire quickly when the customer shakes his head and discounts everything they say. They want the sale. How far will they probe and risk losing the prospect? The customer doesn't want to be shown up as ignorant yet the dealertakes the blame when things go wrong.

You say you want more education from the dealer. Yet, when we try to educate we get negative vibes and are faced with the challenge of trying to salvage the rapore or risk showing up the customer as ignorant. No dealer relishes this type of adversarial relationship. Yet, there are more customers coming through his door with chips on their shoulders than there are meek and teachable. It takes a special person to break down the barriers that most customers bring with them into our showrooms. Yes, it's true. Many dealers do not handle this very well. It is hard. They would rather avoid confrontation and try to make the sale.

No. The dealer is not the weakest link. There is potential for anyone involved to cause a problem. I submit that many of these so-called bad dealers would be good dealers if the buying and selling environment were more adult and professional from both ends. I consider our store one of the good dealers. But I can tell you it is hard. Damn hard. And there is not a week that goes by when I do not wonder why I do this. If my customers only knew what what we have to go through to provide them with the experience they recieve. They should be paying us two to three times what we charge just for the frustration. But we choose to serve. We understand that this comes with the territory. And I can say without doubt that there are customers complaining right now about how bad we are and want us there NOW!!!!


seaken said:
Yet, there are more customers coming through his door with chips on their shoulders than there are meek and teachable. It takes a special person to break down the barriers that most customers bring with them into our showrooms.



Good point!

It takes a "special" type of person to say I'm going to stick it to the oil man and go spend hours in my woods with a chainsaw and maul to make my own heat caveman-style :)

At the same time, I'd guess the customers on the other extreme, those that know nothing and are coming through on a lark are probably also a major source of frustration in that it's clear they will never become that type of person that is really going to commit the time and $ to woodburning!

I found a lot of problems originate from a well meaning sales person not really understanding what goes on in the field. There are many salesfolk here, on, that are knowledgable in both ends of the spectrum, but that is not the norm. You can teach a salesperson how to sell a stove, add venting to the order, and collect a check in the show room, but that doesn't mean they understand the pratical applications and possible problems that will arrive.

This is not the end-all solution to the problem but when I hire a salesperson their 1st week on the job is spent helping an installer, helping in the warehouse, and going out on serice calls. I then have them do the same a day here and there as time progresses as I recognize they need a greater understanding of a particular situation (ex: running a class A chimney). This helps get a better understanding of what actually happens after the sale, the problems that arise, and how they can be resolved. It also helps with an understanding of how the complete system works. Ideally, I would like my salespeople to be installers and service personell that can sell, but thats not practical. I don't want my salespersons to be "pressure" salespersons but sell and gain the customers confidence through their knowledge. My salespersons do not make a commision but get paid an hourly rate. I don't want them to feel they have to sell the highest ticket item in order to make a living. (If we meet projected margins and budget we all get a slice of the pie) I want the to sell what will work best for the customer.

Even though this whole scenario seem to work well and eliminate many of the potential problems, there are of course still many situations that arise and were not perfect. But I think its a step in the right direction.
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