Service is the cornerstone of any equipment dealership, but Patty Williams, chairperson for the Equipment Dealers Association’s (EDA) Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) Council has truly embodied the definition of service throughout her career. From paying close attention to changing customer needs at Mark Williams Outdoor Equipment, to treating employees like family, to serving the industry as the first female EDA OPE Council chairperson, Williams has weaved service into nearly every aspect of her time in the industry.
Putting Customers First
The doors to Mark Williams Outdoor Equipment opened in Murphysboro, Illinois in 1983, but the dealership truly has its beginnings when Patty’s husband Mark worked on neighbors’ equipment in his parents’ garage when he was just 16. Today the dealership spans across three buildings in Murphysboro. What has contributed to their growth and success? Williams reports it’s continuing to put customers first.
“I know it sounds like a coined phrase, but we really focus on customer service,” Williams says. “We offer a preferred customer program, and really focus on listening to our customer’s changing needs.”
For instance, Williams says the dealership has always placed great importance on transparency with customers over the past 34 years – explaining all the details of their purchase or service. In recent years, she has taken note of increased customer involvement or inquiries on transaction details. This has led the dealership to offer more flat rates to simplify billing, as well as returning old parts to customers when possible to provide increased transparency on the work completed.
“We have put systems in place to ensure we explain every step of the way. We do everything we can to make the customer feel secure in doing business with us.”
As the Williams have adjusted to changing times in their area, they have long-term employees who have adapted with them.
“We are very grateful for our employees,” says Williams. “Our parts manager has been with us for 26 years and our lead technician has been with us for 18 years. We have a very family-oriented environment. We get some part time employees through Southern Illinois University’s ag program. A lot of times these students are displaced, so hopefully we give them a sense of family away from home.”
Knowing quality service is a team effort, having a positive work environment is important to Williams. In recent years, a new breakroom for employees was completed. The area has couches, TVs and a kitchen. Helping with the work-life balance, the breakroom provides a supervised area for children of employees to stay after school when needed while their parents work.
Service Beyond the Dealership
Williams has worked in many different aspects of the dealership over the years, starting out in accounting and finance, and eventually moving into sales and marketing. This experience gives her a unique holistic perspective that she shares with the industry as the chair of EDA’s OPE Dealer Council. Williams and eight members of the OPE Dealer Council represent and effectively addresses OPE industry concerns by improving relationships between dealers and manufacturers by creating “win/win” partnerships. The council focuses on fair warranty treatment, mass merchant sales and business relationships as well as internet sales and marketing.
“I think my experience on the OPE Dealer Council can be summed up in one word: service,” Williams says. “Service to the industry and my fellow dealers, as well as solutions to provide premium service to our customers. Being able to hear from the dealership base about their concerns and needs, and then collectively addressing them, helps us find better ways to do business and take care of and service our customers, which, at the end of the day, is why we do it.”