Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Are You Hiding From Your Customers"?

The evolution of providing customer service in our dealerships today has been an interesting ride over the past several years. Some of us have actually been around before D.M.S. (Dealer Management Systems) when we "hand wrote" repair orders and parts tickets.

In my upcoming series titled: "The Evolution of the Modern Day Parts Manager", I will expand more on some of these changes over the years.

In this article, however, I want to focus on one topic, for the most part, that really HAS NOT changed over the years.

Let me start off by asking a question..."When was the last time you saw a parts department employee or manager talking to customers on the service drive?"

Hmmmm....strange question isn't it? Why would anyone that works in the parts department WANT to get involved with any service customer in the first place?

Most parts employees wouldn't even dare to go out there, unless they have to! Maybe they "have to" go out there to verify a piece of trim on a customer's vehicle, or maybe even a tire size.

The point I'm making is that, generally, you don't see any parts employees engaging customers unless it's at the retail part counter, or if they are called upon to go where most parts employees fear and that's the service drive. Believe it or not, there is a logical reason why most of these parts employees fear customer interaction.

It all begins with the behavior tendencies that are usually associated with employees that work in the parts department. The "detail oriented" nature of whats required to work in the parts department attracts and needs personality types that are more "Indirect". 

As I have mention in previous articles, there are more transactions in the Parts Department in a single day than there are in the whole dealership in a single month! This is why we need people with these "Indirect" behavior tendencies in the Parts Department.

"Indirect" meaning their behavior skills need to be more listening, doing, observing and thinking as opposed to the behavior tendencies of the "Direct" personality types which are more competitive, dealing, talkative and more interactive with people. 

This is why, in many dealerships we tend to see more "Direct" personality types in Sales and on the Service Drive while more "Indirect" personality types in the Parts Department, Main Office or in the shop as Service Technicians. 

So what does this all have to do with my original question of hiding from our customers?.....

I believe there is a TON of opportunity to increase overall sales, from vehicle sales to service and parts sales by having what I call, the "missing link" in providing overall customer service.

It is not uncommon to see sales people in the drive talking with customers along with service advisors, but how often do we see parts people on the drive?

Opportunities such accessory sales could be increased just by having a someone from parts promoting them when customers drive in for service. I also believe that there would be more competitive pricing on parts as the parts department would be more interactive with customers.

Especially when the customer wants to know why they are paying $10.00 for an oil filter, or $25.00 for wiper blades. 

I don't think we would have half the parts pricing issues on competitive parts if a representative from the Parts Department had to answer to the customer as opposed to service advisors and managers.

The parts gross profit percentage needs to be lower on competitive parts, (25%-30%) and higher on "captive" parts, which is usually 40% or higher, pending on the cost range.

Normally, when we are "hiding" in the Parts Department, we don't experience any of these customer responses, perceptions or reactions that highly impact our customer retention. Parts employees have a lot of knowledge that should be shared with customers if we could just "think outside the box" and come out of our shells.

Many new dealerships today are actually being designed and built to have the Parts Retail Counter adjacent to the Service Reception Area. Better yet...I've seen some dealerships have all three...Sales, Service and Parts designed in an "open air" atmosphere to tie all these departments together. 

Logistics play a big role in just how "involved" the Parts Department can be in order to better interact with customers. Many dealerships don't even have a service drive, or may not have the parts department staffing available to have a parts person dedicated to the service write up area  in the busy morning hours.

I believe that having the Parts Department more involved with interacting with customers is the one area that most dealerships fail to take advantage of to bring the whole customer experience "full circle". I also believe there is a lot of hidden knowledge and talent in the Parts Department that's going to waste. 

Who knows?...there could be someone in your Parts Department right now that would love to have the opportunity to share their knowledge with customers concerning accessories, "do-it-yourself" vehicle projects, overall vehicle care and even "pride of ownership".

It's time for the Parts Department to be "seen and heard" by being a part of the sales process and not just a "provider of parts". It's time to stop hiding and be a part of the customer retention process as well.

Final Question:

"Do any of your service customers know any of your Parts Staff Member names?"

Interesting thought....if they do?...Congratulations!...If not?...why not?

Dave Piecuch is the Vice President of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. and is the Head Coach for Smart PartsTMThe only "Results Based" High Return Training, Coaching, and Consulting company in the world!  Dave can be reached at Cell 786-521-1720 or E-mail at dave@smartservicetraining.com Vist our Website at www.smartpartstraining.com