Article > Operations

Information Overload


We all make mistakes. Some are excusable and some are just plain stupid. But when it comes to ordering the wrong part for a customer’s vehicle, that mistake is costly and time consuming. What’s the solution?

I make enough of my own mistakes, no help needed.

I got burned the other day, again. Counterpro blunder number 24,357. It was a simple call: two front rotors for a 2004 Malibu. Wow, two choices, including a listing for a “Classic” Malibu. I don’t know about you, but no 2004 Malibu will ever be a “Classic.” A ‘64 or ‘65 maybe, but never a 2004.
Of course, the customer had no additional info, so it was guessing time again. I sent the wrong rotors, as expected. Sending the correct set was only half the answer — to get the whole answer I needed as much information as possible, in the beginning. No luck there.

I hit the “all lines” function on my trusty computer, thinking maybe another manufacturer cataloged the part better. Looking at 15 different catalog listings made it worse. Classic? LT? Maxx? New body style? Old body style? The Malibu Barbie Edition? This is no help at all!

I snuck down to a local service provider and got into his service information Web site. OK, now I see the difference! The Malibus with drum brakes use a 10.86” diameter front rotor, the ones with rear disc use a 11.653” diameter front rotor. So if we “ask” the computer the correct question — “4-wheel disc” or “10 or 11 inch diameter,” we will be able to send the correct part. But, although the 4-wheel disc question is asked, some electronic catalog listings ignore the answer, listing both part numbers. This may leave you waiting for me to jump all over the electronic catalog providers, but not today. Besides, that’s way too easy.

Do I need to arm myself with service provider electronic information? Do I need to be able to tell the difference between J66/J67 and JL9 brakes on our suspect Malibu? Is there a paper catalog that explains the choices better? Maybe there is. But the real answer was located somewhere counterpros usually don’t have the opportunity to explore.

Six days later, we got a call for a fuel filter for a 2002 Wrangler. If you don’t have access to a diagram describing all the different parts on the top of this fuel tank, you will spend the whole day sourcing stuff your customer doesn’t really need. Again, another trip to the local shop to look at a diagram of the top of the tank was required.

In another instance, I’m out calling on shops and discussing flashing PCMs when the tech working on a ‘02 Monte Carlo asked if I use a Tech 2, the preferred GM tool. I don’t. The tech said he purchased his PCM from another supplier because his service information provider stated that he needed to use a Tech 2 tool to do the key learn procedure. I knew there was a different way, yet the instructions with the new PCM were worthless. And a counterpro never tries to out talk a tech.
I asked the tech for the information, which he printed from his service Web site. There it was, after six pages of Tech 2 instructions, a way to do the learn procedure with “no tools.” And the procedure was only five lines long. I saved my competitor a return and I thought about how many other times this must have occurred. How many other PCMs are returned as new or defective because of poor or non-existent installation and learn procedures? Wouldn’t it be great to send explicit instructions for the make, model and year with the PCM? The majority of the shops have access to this type of information, but do they use it? Every time? I doubt it.

Try to replace the power sunroof motor or window motors on a 2005 Ford 500. Does the tech need to de-initialize the old motor and initialize the new motor? We are going to need a bigger back room unless we have a way of passing this information on to our customers. Will every manufacturer put the correct instructions in the box? Will anyone read them, the first time? Will anyone even believe the instructions? How many parts do we need to take back before we justify the cost of an information system?

I know what you’re thinking — it’s the same thing I’m thinking — this is just more money spent for something that our manufacturers should be providing, either in catalog or electronic form. I don’t think the manufacturers are going to donate that information any time soon so we can all have “free access” to service-provider Web sites. But I know counterpros will require more and more technical information, locators, diagrams, TSBs, install instructions and VIN decoders. Like our technician customers, we cannot ignore any source of needed information.

Hey, service-information providers, how about some help? The distribution side of the aftermarket may provide the sales boost you are searching for next year. But as usual, we need a “deal.”

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