Tuesday, October 5, 2021

October 2021: Parts Department Training: "Is Your Staff Fully Trained?"

In most automotive dealerships today, and unfortunately, the Parts Department is the last department on the list when it comes down to training priorities. At best, Parts Department Staff may be required to complete certification status with various manufacturers, but these certifications are not a substitute for basic training requirements.

Working in the Parts Department also requires a certain personality that is detail oriented along with a logical thought process in order to manage and process all the information and transactions that occur each day in the Parts Department.

Recruiting and hiring the right Parts Department Staff and much like in any other dealership department, requires the same routine background checks, employment history and experience. The difference though in hiring Parts Department Staff is that there are a lot of other factors that have to be considered in the hiring process.

First and foremost, all Parts Department Employees have to be trustworthy and responsible in protecting and maintaining the dealers parts inventory. These two characteristics can not be trained and have to be a prerequisite for all Parts Department Employees.

Once we pass through the recruiting and hiring milestone, positioning and training become the next two priorities. Obviously, when hiring Parts Counter Staff, experience and work history usually dictates the parts counter positions with entry level parts employees filling the shipping, receiving, stock person and delivery driver positions.

All these positions require proper training, even at the entry levels as all parts department employees are responsible for protecting, maintaining and securing the parts inventory. Training on OSHA Requirements, (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) is important for all dealership employees, especially in the Parts Department.

On that same subject, all employees, including parts employees need to be trained and familiar with the Dealers Material, Safety and Data Sheets, (MSDS) and it's full contents including locations of Eye Wash and Medical Stations.  

Along with basic "housekeeping" practices, all the above apply to all parts employees and as well as all dealership employees. Taking pride in our work place environment seems to have slipped away over the past several years and needs to be a common practice again.

Once "basic training" for all parts employees is completed, individual training on all Parts Job Descriptions is the next requirement. Without a Job Description, training for any position would have no accountability or purpose.

Let's Get Down to Parts Department Training in all the Specific Categories...

Entry Level: Shipping/Receiving/Stock Person/Driver

As you can see from all the different Parts "Entry Levels" above, most of our parts employees got their start in the Parts Department in one of these areas. As they progress in these roles, they often end up in parts counter positions or even management.

Training is still just as important in these entry level categories and we will start with the Parts Driver. The parts driver, believe it or not is the "face" of the dealership when on the road delivering parts. This means that the parts driver should be trained and skilled in verbal communication.

A friendly smile, handshake and a warm greeting should be the norm on every stop on the route while delivering and/or picking up parts. The parts driver should be recognizable in dealership attire and be well versed in current wholesale promotions and special offers.

Our next entry level parts position that requires specific training is the Shipping & Receiving Clerk. Shipping & Receiving parts is an extremely important position. It requires a degree of "reconciliation" and "accounting" experience from order numbers to packing slips right on down to the parts invoices.

This is where I was referring to parts staff having the right Personality Profile that is detailed, organized and logical thinking. Reconciling all these parts and paperwork has to be accurate in order to reconcile the Controlled Parts Inventory, (DMS) and the Accounting Ledger Balance Inventory.

Inaccurate and improper posting of parts can also lead to an inaccurate Off Shelf Fill Rate and most important, the First Time Off Shelf Fill Rate as parts have to be receipted in the proper stocking categories of Normal Stocking Parts and Non-Stock Parts such as Special Orders.

This could ultimately lead to inaccurate inventory investment numbers, gross and true turn rates and overall obsolescence. Who would have thought that all this training on proper posting and receipting could lead to so much in the end? As the old saying goes..."Garbage In, Garbage Out!"

Insuring the right bin locations for parts is also a skill that requires training in bin management and computer skills to continuously update the current stocking position of all parts and in proper order, space availability with the part number facing forward for proper identification.

Bin positioning is also very important as fast moving parts need to be shelved closer to the front counter for efficient dispatching of parts to technicians. Slower moving parts can be binned according to size, or individual part group identification as needed.

The Shipping/Receiver, or Stock Person has a key role into what eventually happens out front with the Front and Back Counter Staff and Parts Manager. You might even say that they are the "set up" people that make it happen from behind the scenes and their position should never be taken lightly.

Front & Back Counter Staff:

When I was growing up in the parts business, the "Parts Counter" was the elite position, both in the dealership and the aftermarket. This is where you wanted to be and hopefully some day, grow into the Parts Manager Position. In most dealerships today, most Parts Manager "grew" into their management position by their tenure on the Parts Counter.

That being said, training is of the utmost importance in being a successful Parts Counter Person. The unique skills required encompass many personality traits from being a salesperson, cashier, research analyst and yes...even a psychiatrist when it comes down to listening to technicians every day.

The Parts Counter Person is also a "diagnostician" in many cases as technicians often ask the Parts Counter Person what they need to fix a vehicle and like most Parts Counter Persons, they always offer their advice based on experience in looking up parts.

This "shifting" degree of personality traits starts with an analytical mind that can shift from customer to customer, technician to technician and stay on a logical point while communicating with all types of personalities. There is no training that can change who we are, but adapting to different environments is a task by itself.

The Parts Counter Person must also be trained in Accounting to some degree where "checks and balances" are an every day occurrence and must always be accurate. The Parts Counter Person also has to be trusted in all Pricing Strategies & Policies implemented by the dealer.

The Parts Counter Person also MUST have good "phone skills", which unfortunately is not trained enough in many automotive dealerships today. The standard "Parts Hold" response is still the number one response on in-coming calls to the Parts Department. In my opinion, parts phone skills training is the number one training topic.

With so many transactions throughout each day in the Parts Department, it's a wonder that more mistakes don't happen as each part has to be billed individually for the most part and every part has to be accounted for on the shelf with an average 4.000 to 5,000 part numbers in the average inventory. 

Lastly, the Parts Counter Person must be trained on basic salesmanship in "relative" selling on related parts that the customer may be inquiring about. In other words, selling a set of brake pads could also include a bottle of brake fluid needed to bleed the brakes.

The Assistant Parts Manager:

The Assistant Parts Manager position is not a position in all Parts Departments, but if it is, it's the "catch all" of all other Parts Department positions. The Assistant Parts Manager has to fill all roles in the Parts Department efficiently and to the expectations of the Parts Manager position.

Training in this position requires Parts Management Training as well as Parts Staff Training, which can be a "juggling act". In my opinion, the most important training attribute of any "Assistant Manager" position is Communications Training.

The Assistant Parts Manager, or any Assistant Manager for that matter, is the "binding thread" between management and subordinates. Meaning that they are the "in-between" person and often times get caught up between the two.

That being said, the Assistant Parts Manager has to be uniquely skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of the Parts Department Operations, plus that added level of communications training that binds the department as one department.

This is one position that needs to include experience, past work history, the right personality and work ethic that can lead others, just like the Parts Manager. Training for the Assistant Parts Manager should be no different from the Parts Manager.

Dealer Management System, (DMS) training is a must on all the "proper" Set Ups & Controls, including Phase-In/Phase-Out Criteria, Stocking Levels, Obsolescence Control, Pricing Policies and Account Management all applies to the Assistant Parts Manager. 

Training never stops, as one of my clients has said to me several times, and the Parts Department is no different. Parts Department Training needs to move up the ladder in priority in the dealerships training agenda for obvious reasons...

 If you want to learn more about ACG Smart Parts "Eight Habits of Highly Successful Parts Managers", visit our website @ www.smartpartstraining.com, or...just pick up the phone and call me at (786) 521 - 1720...After all, not knowing is not worth not "fixing" it...