By Amanda Gubbins, SEMA
Harley-Davidson has successfully created a brand that extends beyond manufacturing motorcycles into fostering a lifestyle. Steve Earnshaw, Director of Strategy and Business Development for Harley-Davidson's Genuine Parts & Accessories division, believes that Harley's customer focused philosophy has been a key to its success. "It's something we're most proud of, and we call it being ‘close to the customer,'" says Earnshaw. "We invest in listening to our customers and putting our people in front of them at events and rallies."
Harley accomplishes this by making sure staff members are regularly engaged with consumers. "We don't hire contract staff for events, we take the product development team," Earnshaw says. By being engaged with the riders actually using the company's products, each team member is keenly aware of the customer's needs.
The Harley Owners Group, the company's official motorcycle club, offers another way for team members to connect with consumers. The club, now 30 years old, has grown to nearly a million members worldwide and offers benefits such as roadside assistance, events and member-exclusive publications. This Labor Day Weekend, more than 100,000 Harley riders from around the world will gather for the company's 110th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee. All of these resources help the brand be more than just a motorcycle. "We were really building a social network before there was such a thing. It's intentional and deliberate," Earnshaw says.
Product Integrity is another value that guides the company. Harley-Davidson earns trust by going the extra mile in testing each product. Because they are so closely associated with the original equipment manufacturer, every single Genuine Harley-Davidson Parts & Accessories product is held to OEM standards. While this puts some limitations on what the company can offer, it is an intentional decision. Consumers can feel confident when investing in a Harley product, knowing the company has designed and tested it to the highest standards.
Rigorous attention is given to the fit, function, and style of each of Harley's 55,000 products. Approximately 20% of those products are accessories, and Harley-Davidson goes to great length to be clear about exactly which vehicles they fit. Going this extra mile shows Harley's strong commitment to consumers.
When Earnshaw says, "Every piece performs to Harley-Davidson standards, or we don't offer it," it means that it fits and works right out of the box. Harley has regular forums with dealers to further understand what they need, and to stay on the cutting edge of commercial trends.
With so many choices, it is important to make the shopping experience as simple as possible. At the Harley-Davidson online store, owners can enter the year and make of their bike to be sure the part they are getting fits. A "bike builder" and inspiration gallery offer ideas for those who need a little help getting started. All of these steps ensure that customers and dealers alike receive the best Harley has to offer. The bottom line, Earnshaw says, is, "We make it easy for people to build their dream bike."