Featuring Trent Nelson, Director of Customer Experience, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
Trent Nelson first saw an Apex pickup solution at Little Caesars, and knew that kind of convenience was something his customers would love. In this episode, he talks about how Rocky Mountain ATV/MC has been able to expand ecommerce sales with convenient locker pickup that customers request with every order.
Rochelle Hi, everyone. I’m Rochelle Berry. And today I’m here with Trent Nelson, Director of Customer Experience at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC. Hi, Trent. Thanks so much for coming.
Trent Yeah, of course. I’m glad to be here.
Rochelle I’m really excited to speak to you today. We’ve done a lot of conversations with foodservice providers and today we’re talking retail in a very niche industry. So I wanted to thank you for taking the time for that. And I wanted to start with having you talk about your professional journey and what brought you to Rocky Mountain.
Trent Yeah, so I’ve been in customer service for a long time. I started in customer service and kind of learned throughout my career at starting levels and then naturally transitioned. I went through a couple of different industries and was able to learn and experience that and go through buyouts and work for smaller companies, up to larger companies. And essentially when I came to Rocky Mountain as a local company that I saw and was kind of like, ahh, that might be fun to work for and ended up reaching out. And it worked out really well. So it’s a smaller company. It was privately owned. We just recently went through an ESOP so now it’s employee owned, which is a really good benefit of the company as well, and it’s just surrounded with really great people. So it’s been a good transition for me to come here and be a part of, honestly, the smaller organization, which has a much better culture in my opinion, and be able to be a lot more involved and make decisions like this with things like the Apex Lockers, go to implement things, actually benefit the organization and end up really having a bigger return right away rather than going through a ton of processes to try to get something approved that just doesn’t end up happening.
Rochelle So yeah, well, I’m a little familiar with ESOP, one of my mentors, and he was an investor in one of my agencies actually. So he did an ESOP with his business that took him from almost being bankrupt to one of the most successful remanufacturing companies in the world. And it really it says a lot when the employees are taking interest and understanding the bottom line, understanding the P&L and seeing how that directly benefits not just the customer, but their own families. So I commend Rocky Mountain on making that journey. That’s pretty awesome.
Trent Yeah, it definitely changes the approach. I mean, you know, we’re all invested in it and at the end of the day, we all benefit from the organization. So it was obviously a pain to go through and it’s a process to get it done and it takes the right owner to be able to do that, to be honest with you. You know, you have a lot of owners that could just sell out and get a check and walk away. But, you know, being a part of our organization where our owner really cared about the business and the people and the culture, it was a tough decision or not a tough decision, a tough process. But, you know, it’s definitely been a benefit for all of us. So.
Rochelle Yeah, it takes a certain level of tenacity and dedication to the process, like you said, and that that says a lot about their heart.
Trent Yeah, absolutely.
Rochelle Yeah. Well, it sounds like you’ve got a good fit. Yeah. So with that, can you talk a little bit more about the technology journey and the innovations that the company has been through and what you’ve witnessed specific to the company, Rocky Mountain?
Trent Yeah, so we’re actually really unique in the fact that our customer management system is all in-house, our inventory system is all in-house. So we actually have a group of developers that develop our website, develop our, our system and, and it’s all done locally and it’s been like that since we started. And so it’s a lot different than other companies that have reached out and incorporated other businesses, ours as well, and grown. And so we have naturally progressed that technology and made it better.
But as technology has grown so fast, we’ve really had to be able to reach out to other companies and start integrating, right? So we have our core system, which is really great and it does a really good job for us. But there are certain things that aren’t worth the time to go out and develop and make or whatever it may be. And so we’re constantly looking for new technologies to bring in and then really migrate them through APIs or whatever it may be and with our system and make them work seamlessly together.
And so it’s I mean, any business is constantly looking at technology, right? If you’re not looking, you’re already behind. And so it’s a constant search to see what’s out there and what’s better and just always having your eyes open. And sometimes they come in different ways, right? So sometimes you’re actually actively looking for them and sometimes you run across technology. Do you think this could be a really good fit and we should look into this and make a shot at seeing if it can work and it ends up working for you.
Rochelle When did you integrate with the lockers?
Trent I believe I’m just going to throw a guestimate out there it was 2020 through 2022 were just crazy for us. We had a couple of crazy years and our business blew up. But I believe it was back early 2021, if I remember correctly. And the reason I kind of talk about sometimes you run across things is the Apex locker system was unique because I ran across that at Little Caesars if I’m being honest with you. I saw it as like, this is such a cool technology. Like we should look into this and see like if it can be used. I didn’t know if it was able to be used in the retail space or how it could be used. And so, you know, I just ran across it and saw the name on the locker and then did some research and kind of went from there.
Rochelle And that was right after COVID then that you integrated with Apex lockers?
Trent Yeah, well, it was just before COVID, so probably was 2020, just before COVID hit because we actually implemented them, then COVID hit and we had to go through the whole process of, you know, do we allow customers in store and how are we going to interact with them or whatever it may be. So because of that, obviously locker volume and the usage of it went down a little bit, but then as COVID went away, it definitely ramped up significantly more. But we did have a little bit of implementation before COVID. So you’re right, it probably was 2020, early 2020.
Rochelle Let’s talk about the customer side. What are what feedback are you receiving from their usage of that locker in that process? And can you walk us through, what does the customer experience look like?
Trent Yeah, so we use it in our retail stores and essentially the customers love it. Like I get people that are just constantly like anytime they call or place orders or whatever it may be, we’re always getting notes on the order saying, “Please put this in the locker or you know, can you please set this up for me so I don’t have to go up to the counter,” whatever it may be. Our product size is so vastly different, right? So we have some products that are huge, you know, you have to put in the back of a truck, and we’ve got a lot of products that are small. And so depending on the product size or whatever it may be, we have to make sure that it’s going to fit the locker. And so some of it’s unique, but our lockers are constantly full and our retail space is smaller.
And so we’re trying to figure out where we can implement more of them because customer feedback is just we want as many of our products to go in the locker as possible because for them it’s a convenient space. They stop in, they go right to the locker, grab the item and they walk out in literally less than like 2 minutes. And then for me, I don’t have to pay an employee to go through and pull up their account, go back and grab their order, take care of them, whatever it may be.
And so our lockers are placed right next to our front door. They walk in it’s literally probably 15 feet. They put in their code or scan their barcode, grab their item, and they’re out the door. And so, you know, we’re trying to we still want that personal customer interaction. And so we have somebody that’s there as they walk in the door that kind of greets them and guides them to the locker and tells them, thank you for coming in as they walk out the door. We still make it as personable as possible, but every customer wants the locker. If I could have lockers that were the size of the back of truck beds, they would want it in the locker for sure.
Rochelle And how many locations do you have?
Trent So right now we have two retail locations. Our business is unique. We are mainly online ecommerce, but we do have local retail locations, one in Winchester, Kentucky, and one in Payson, Utah, to take care of local customers that can come in and need products. But we’re actually looking at the possibilities of doing smaller brick and mortars throughout the nation, really across the way to take care of more local customers, but then also utilize that space to see if we can, you know, ship items out of there, whatever it may be, and save on shipping. So we’re just barely getting into that to see if it’s something that we want to really dive into and make use of, if it makes sense. But we’ll see how it goes.
Rochelle Well, it sounds like you’re a real leader in the industry. Speaking of that, with are there any associations that you’re involved in?
Trent So we do a lot of work for conservative associations like Bureau of Land Management, a lot of like the off-road associations really to protect as many of the lands as we can and really promote responsible usage of the lands. So if we don’t have land to ride on and we don’t have places to ride, then we are not going to be in business. And it’s what we enjoy, right?
So our business is based and built off of enthusiasts and so a lot of us are riding all day, every day. And so we’re a big advocate of taking care of the natural resources we have and making sure that we’re doing the right things to keep those open and keep them available for usage, because that’s why we love what we do. And then it really adds to our industry. So we get as involved as possible in those areas.
So I think that there’s all these little micro-interactions and as these technology companies and, you know, as we continue to partner more closely, I think that’s where you see a lot of these benefits. It’s less about the next cool thing. And don’t get me wrong, that’s there, too, but it’s just how fluidly and well these disparate systems work together, both on the front end for the consumer experience, but also how we share data, how data gets to the right place.
Rochelle Well, it’s a unique culture. Culture of you’re your group, I’m sure, too.
Rochelle When you talk to other peers in retail, what are you hearing that’s trending or problems they’re trying to solve or, you know, what are you what are you talking about in your little world of retail and maybe even the niche of that ATV MC world.
Trent So the last couple of years have just been so unique and the fact that certain industries have done really, really well and certain industries have really struggled. And it’s kind of weird to see which industries have done well and which ones have not. Our industry has done really well. I think what had happened through COVID was customers didn’t travel, they didn’t go on airplanes, they didn’t go on these lavish vacations. So instead, they took their RV and their UTVs and their machines out and they went riding for the weekend or they went for, you know, drove close to the location and went out for a week and whatever it may be. And so we had a tremendous 2020, 2021, and even 2022 was really, really good for us. 2023 is still great. We’re still doing really good. It’s not the growth that we had in last couple of years, but honestly, it’s healthy, right?
So for us, we’re just trying to get our feet underneath us, catch up with all the growth that we had and make sure that we’re still delivering the right service to our customers that we should be delivering. Because, just being transparent, you know, whenever you’re having a crazy growth and you’re growing exponentially, it’s really hard to keep that same level of customer experience while keeping up with the demand. And so the conversations are really just talking to the different industries and seeing what’s happening and where they’re at.
I think we’ve all had concerns or heard concerns about 2023 and how things are going to go. And luckily it’s been great so far and everything’s in a good spot, but there are certain industries that are struggling and so it’s just figuring out, you know, how to make sure that you’re in a good spot to make it through if there is any type of recession or struggle.
Rochelle You know, that’s definitely a conversation happening, I think, no matter what industry you’re in. Okay. So we talk a lot about the food service industry and what they’ve been through and hospitality in general, but that carries over to retail quite a bit. Any one of us can walk into –we have Macy’s department store, for example, and it’s empty. It’s like the mall is shutting down. Yeah. So and people do I think appreciate and have become accustomed to ordering online I mean Target just delivered something to my door today and it helps me as a busy professional and a busy mom. Yeah. And that’s the thing. We just kind of want to get on with our world.
Trent Absolutely. I also think that, you know, even though ordering online has been more popular and getting things delivered. There’s a comeback, I think, coming of that personal interaction and that personal touch. And I think that people enjoy walking in. And I think people are kind of sick of sitting in their house. And so we get people all the time that just they’ll come in and look at product or want to come into the store to try things on because they just don’t want to have to order at home. They’ve been, you know, they’ve been in their house long enough and they’re ready to get out and start having interactions. And so it will be interesting to see what happens the next few years. I think people are going to start wanting that social interaction and that face to face experience. And so leading with that and always continuing to have that and make sure that it’s, you know, a great experience is, I think, going to be important in the future.
Rochelle Right? Yeah, there’s a balance of the people to people. So seeing when our masks came off right we were all like, oh the smile is back. Yeah, we missed that. And I think that Apex for one is not trying to replace that people interaction. I think that the piece of it is trying to handle congestion and lobbies, trying to let people get in and get out, but also not replacing it, not replacing the greeter or.
Trent Yeah, I mean, I think that if you think about even like a customer service or customer experience, for a long time we heard omnichannel, right? Like the omnichannel approach has got to be able to call or text or email or whatever it may be. That same approach is transitioning to getting product to a customer, right? So you can’t be a one aspect type of company anymore and you’ve got to be able to have that omni channel type of approach, right? If they want it delivered to them, you’ve got to be able to deliver it to them. And if they want to walk in your store, they got to be able to walk in your store. Sometimes things are more urgent than others, and having it delivered tomorrow or the next day is not going to work for them. And so, you know, being able to deliver that is huge.
And you see that even with companies like Amazon, right? So like they’re popping up with these little stores or same-day delivery because they need to accommodate that. And so we all have to really look and see what we can do to make sure that we’re having that approach to really meet the customer’s needs however they want it done. We’ve got to make sure that we’re giving that to them.
Rochelle Right. Well, and then how do you know what data are you collecting from whatever technology that you’re using or surveys or.
Trent So we can look at it and see. I mean, obviously we have trends, right? So people are out on the weekends. So Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays are crazy volume for online orders and ecommerce orders for us. We’re still good on Thursday or Friday, but we can essentially get that product to the customer by the weekend whenever it’s ordered earlier in the week and then later in the week we get really, really busy in our retail locations. So, you know, Thursday, Friday, even Saturday, we can see that those customers need the product now and they want it now and we can adjust our resources to making sure that we’re fulfilling those needs for those retail locations so that we can handle that volume.
And stuff like Apex helps us, right? So I can have the lockers set up and I can have 100 items in the locker. I don’t have to interact with the customer because we’re so slammed and busy and lines or whatever it may be, and they can walk in and get their product and walk out the door and they absolutely love it.
And so it’s I mean, being transparency my staffing has been able to be the same through the growth we’ve had with COVID through 2020, 2021 and 2022. I haven’t had to increase staffing in my retail locations because I have the lockers, right? So I have employees on the back end that will take care of the lockers and get them all set up. But they were already organizing product before the customers walked in to have it ready for them. And so it’s just another, another aspect for them to put it in the locker for the customer. But as far as my front-end employees, I didn’t have to staff up because we able to take that increase and really just put it into the Apex system. And so it’s been huge for us because as far as employee hours and our payroll, it’s more than paid for itself in that aspect.
Rochelle Yeah, that’s a great testimonial. Thank you. I think to that’s what we see across the board is the labor savings. Yeah. Which is sometimes why people come to look for that technology and sometimes they’re looking to solve for the problem of congestion and it sounds like it’s doing both for you.
Trent Yeah, it does both for us, right? Because typically we’d have to store that product in the back and wait for the customer to come in and then get it to them. But now we can put it in the lockers and they pick it up, you know, and we’re pretty transparent with our customers and tell them it’s going to be there for 24 hours and they like it enough that they pick it up in 24 hours. Like it’s very rare we have to pull products out of the kiosk and out of the locker system to hold on to it in the back. Like it’s typically picked up because they just want to get in and out when it’s convenient.
Rochelle So what’s next for Rocky Mountain?
Trent Man, if I look at my retail locations. I think currently the quickest thing that I would like to implement would probably be some outdoor stuff. I think that now, like I talked about the omni channel approach, right, and the retail side of picking up products. We can’t limit our customers to our business hours. You know, I think that we need to be more adaptable than that. And so I know that there are some solutions for outdoor lockers and having customers come and pick our product after hours or whatever it may be. So in the immediate term, I think that, you know, I’m looking for some sort of a solution that I can help customers after business hours and get product in there and maybe have a couple employees that are getting that product and then we can take care of them for a lot for a lot more extended hours than we currently do.
Long term, there’s a ton of different things we look at, right? So we have locations that are like very remote. So I mean, I can talk about an hour from here we have an area, an area called Little Sahara Sand Dunes, and there’s no retail there, right? There’s an office for the Bureau of Land Management. But we’ve talked about maybe even contracting with them and setting up a locker system there and then making it to where we make, you know, a drive out there two or three times a day and we drop off product for customers that are out there and they can go pick it up in the locker system. And then if they’re stuck or they need something immediately, you know, it’s going to be there in a couple of hours and they’re taken care of versus having to drive a couple hours back to get product from us. And so that’s an option. Like I said, we’ve started to dig in a little bit to having some brick and mortars across the country to get products to our customers faster and be able to have them pick up same day. And so that’s something, you know, we could look into a little bit that we’ve had some conversations about.
Honestly, the options with the locker systems are kind of endless because at the end of the day, you can have very little employees taking care of hundreds of customers. You know, it doesn’t you don’t have to be there for when that customer is taken care of. You can do all the backend processing and the customer can show up whenever they want and take care of it. And that’s why I like it in the retail space.
From the retail side, it’s a hard good product that can be in there, I mean, even if it’s a couple of days, right? So there might be some businesses that don’t do as much volume as us. And maybe instead of 24 hours, they have, you know, three days or four days. And I’ve seen, you know, there’s a local plumbing company that I’ve used and they have the Apex system and that’s my favorite because I can order it and I pick it up in the next couple of days and it’s always there. And I can it’s outside their door and I don’t have to talk to anybody and I can leave, right? I get to talk to people all day long so I can talk to people outside of work. Like, all right, cool. Let’s do this.
Rochelle Yes, Well, we talked before recording that you’re a busy, professional father and with three kids, you got a grab and go to the baseball fields or whatever else. And exactly. Talked about how I can relate. Yeah, it’s there are a lot of great benefits. What would you, what advice would you give to someone in the retail industry, small or large business?
Trent I think the advice I would give is just look into it. Right. I think that initially the thought process of it, like, I, like I said, I saw it at a Little Caesars. I looked at the website and there are so many different solutions, right? And so, like, I think I got a little bit overwhelmed at first. Like, first off, how am I going to find the right solution? And second off, implementation, like how is implementation going to go? But after looking on the site, then finally reaching out to someone and talking to somebody and them helping me out like they understood what I was looking to achieve and what I wanted to do, and went over lockers sizes with an average size of product and all that stuff that I probably would not have thought about up front, and I probably would have ordered the wrong system. It really helped me understand what I needed first off, and then the implementation, it was, we use an API because we kind of have it integrated with our internal system a little bit, but in full transparency, I would have felt 100% comfortable just using the Apex software, right? Like I would have been totally fine with that.
And it’s so much easier than you think it’s going to be. It seems like it’s overwhelming, but once you get into it, understand the system and know how it works it’s a really user friendly system. And I think once you are comfortable with that and know that, hey, I can make this work for me no matter my situation and you start looking into the numbers and how much time it’s going to save you and employees it’s going to save you, and all that kind of stuff.
And then the benefit of the customer experience on top of it. I think it’s really quick to see that it’s a no-brainer to get involved and make it a part of your business because again, you have to deliver how the consumer wants it. You can’t think that one way is going to be okay or acceptable. And so maybe you don’t have an ecommerce option, maybe you can’t ship to customers. But giving a locker option where they can pick up at their convenience might resolve that for that customer rather than having to come in during your business hours again, or whatever it may be. But definitely I would just say look into it and as soon as you see the benefits and the savings and the customer experience, I can’t imagine someone saying no, to be honest.
Rochelle Well, thank you. That’s great advice. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
Trent I don’t think so. I mean, honestly, it’s been a great experience with Apex and the locker system, and I think it’s just getting started for us, if I’m being honest. I think that there’s going to be a lot more solutions in the future and I hope that retail companies jump in on it. I hope it becomes, you know, a lot more popular in that world because I’m just selfish and I personally want to use this.
Rochelle Well, thank you so much for your time today and congrats on your success and kudos to all of the success to come. And any challenge that comes your way I have no doubt Rocky Mountain is going to overcome it.
Trent Awesome. Well, thank you so much for the time. I appreciate the conversation.
Rochelle Thank you.