It's been said that there's always a kernel of truth within every joke.
This month's cartoon is a good example of that. The cartoon, Over the Counter, by fellow parts specialist Ron Cole, depicts a counterman going into work on a Saturday, remembering days long past when Saturday was a day for R & R (that's rest and relaxation) rather than the R & R of the automotive kind.
How many of you currently work Saturdays? How about Sundays? I'm sure many of you do, not that you particularly like it, but it's just part of the job.
This is more than the "do more with less" trend in business. You are there to serve the needs of your customers, both DIY and professional. I'm sure that you keep Saturday hours mostly for your DIY walk-ins. You may not even have a truck running on the weekend. But I'd bet that more and more of your professional customers are starting to keep weekend hours too. This is certainly a trend among OE dealerships.
Dealerships service departments are pretty serious about gaining more parts and service market share, and they are using more motorist-friendly hours to help grab it. There's a dealership service department in a nearby town that advertises that they have a technician on duty until 3 a.m. Three a.m! Taco Bell isn't even open that late. I wonder what kind of technicians they have working third shift. As your wholesale accounts can attest, it's hard enough just finding a technician for during the daylight hours.
But in the end, all the grumbling about extended hours doesn't really matter. It's all about serving the needs of the customer - the motorist - who has come to have some pretty sky-high expectations about this business.
Consider same-day automotive repair and service. People have come to expect that getting a service appointment at a dealership is difficult. Apparently that's where the need for 3 a.m. service appointments comes from. Same-day service is the reason you need to carry such a high level of inventory, and it's the reason you do hot-shot deliveries. You do these things because your customers demand it. They demand it because motorists expect it.
The market does a pretty darn good job getting the right parts where they need to be. There are, however, some customer expectations that need to change. Consumers still expect to be ripped off, and they still expect to pay $19.99 for a brake job. Your technician customers still expect that they can return anything and everything. And unfortunately, customers expect to be treated poorly by those who work in the trade.
I know that a minority of automotive businesses feed these unfortunate expectations and stereotypes, but as a guy who has been in more than his fair share of parts stores and repair shops, there's enough of this going on around the industry to warrant our tarnished reputation.
Motorists should have different expectations. They should expect to have their vehicles repaired quickly and correctly. They should also expect to be treated fairly and honestly. Once the right kinds of customer expectations are realistic and regular, we can all sleep better at night. Well, at least those who aren't working the graveyard shift.