In the December issue of AMSOIL Magazine, Joe Tatro’s letter expressed an opinion that customers generated by AMSOIL should be distributed to all Dealers equally, thereby helping small Dealers and not favoring more successful Dealers who have more time and resources. It is not often that a letter to the editor generates multiple responses from other Dealers, and this is an important topic, so I want to talk more about our position on Customer Certification. Joe, I want you and Dealers like you to know that I value your feedback and understand where you’re coming from. There are a few misconceptions I’d like to clear up and some realities I want to make clear.
Several of the responses we received that were not in favor of the Customer-Certified criteria referenced how things were 10, 20 or more years ago. I appreciate those sentiments, but the fact is times have changed and unless we evolve with the realities of today, we’ll be forgotten. I don’t want AMSOIL to be forgotten, and I’m not satisfied with simply continuing to exist. I want this company to grow and thrive, and I want you to be part of that.
Dealer Jim Anderson is alarmed that he won’t receive an assigned customer, even though it might have come from his own website. That’s not how it works, Jim. Any customers who come from your website to amsoil.com and make a purchase are assigned to you. Customer-Certified Dealers are assigned customers who come to amsoil.com from other sources, like Google or Bing. We put several measures in place to ensure Dealers are credited for any purchases made by customers they generate.
Dealer Wayne Edgerton encouraged us to consider a lower requirement to attain Customer-Certified status and suggested two new customers each year might be better. We do offer alternative paths to qualification, Wayne, and you can qualify with only two new qualified customers in the past 12 months if you also have been a Dealer for less than a year, or have 24 or more active buying customers or have more than $10,000 in personal purchases plus five or more active buying customers. Our goal with the alternative qualification methods was to provide paths to Certification for new Dealers, Dealers with established customer bases who focus on training and home- warehouse Dealers.
Dealer Harold Noll mentioned there were no minimum purchase, sponsorship, certification or website-hosting requirements in the past, and that Dealers were free to use their Dealerships as businesses or for personal use.
That all remains true today, Harold, although anyone who is not a Lifetime Dealer would save money by becoming a Preferred Customer. Still, you’re welcome to maintain a Dealership strictly for personal use if you choose, and there are no minimum purchase, sponsorship, certification or online requirements for you to have a Dealership. You also remain Co-op Certified, Harold. That was not taken from you and you still qualify for the benefits that status confers. Your letter stated that you don’t want a business. That’s perfectly fine, and it also gets right to the heart of the issue. There are many Dealers like you who have earned Certifications through the years but don’t actively work their businesses. When we gain a new customer and connect that customer with a Dealer who isn’t actively working his business, that customer has a bad experience and is unlikely to give AMSOIL another chance. We cannot do that.
We are spending a lot of money building our brand (our image and reputation) and generating customers. These are two closely related but independent efforts. Our brand is affected by everything labeled “AMSOIL” – the quality of our oil, our customer service, our Dealers and more. It takes years to build a brand, but it only takes one bad experience to destroy it in the mind of a consumer. That’s why it is imperative that we protect it. When your brand is strong, it helps you generate new customers, and all customers should be cherished. Without them, none of us has a paycheck. When we are fortunate enough to generate new customers with our marketing efforts, we assign these customers a servicing Dealer.
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which Dealers will cherish their customers, which Dealers are inactive and which Dealers will not even answer the phone. Before we had minimum Certification requirements in place, we sometimes assigned customers to Dealers who were inactive or uncaring. This was a horribly expensive mistake that did substantial damage to our brand. Today, with the Customer- Certification Program in place, we have taken one small step toward ensuring we are connecting the customers we cherish with Dealers who have demonstrated that they are actively working their businesses and keeping their customers happy. I’m not suggesting that any of you who wrote to us don’t have the necessary knowledge or don’t take care of your customers, but we have no way of knowing without imposing some minimum standards.
Dealer Randy Williams, who was in support of the Customer- Certification Program, thought that requiring only four new customers a year was surprisingly low. Other Dealers commented that the program was not fair, and implied that different Dealers are being held to different standards. Not so. All Dealers abide by the same set of rules without exception. You are running an independent business and you have to navigate your own path to success. If what you’re trying is not working, try something else. Learn a new approach, focus on a different market or use a different channel. It’s not easy, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers; all I can provide is encouragement and examples of what has worked for others.
An AMSOIL Dealership is an opportunity to generate income. It is not an entitlement to receive customers or any form of compensation from AMSOIL. We want all Dealers to make good money. We are incentivized to do everything in our control to help you make money – if you are making more money, that means you are selling more oil, which means AMSOIL is making more money too. That is why we continue to invest in better websites, better training materials, better advertising and better programs. But we cannot just distribute these expensive, cherished customers to all Dealers and hope they will be treated properly. Hope is not a strategy. We must connect them with Dealers who have demonstrated that they possess basic product and program knowledge AND are actively working their businesses and serving existing customers.
My explanation should help everyone understand the reasoning behind our decisions, our program changes and our future direction. This is not about corporate greed – our profits remain the same whether the smallest Dealer or the largest Dealer makes the sale. This is about making hard decisions to ensure the long-term success of AMSOIL so that we can provide you with a thriving business long into the future. More changes will occur in the months and years ahead, and all of them will be in service to our two main goals: 1. Help Dealers be more successful and 2. Ensure AMSOIL remains strong for many years to come.
Lastly, whether they appreciated the Certification Program or opposed it, each letter-writer’s passion for AMSOIL is evident. I am very grateful for that and I am thankful for each of you. I hope you will be inspired to push forward, make use of the tools and corporate support we provide and join me as we grow together.
President & CEO