Are delivery people important to the success of a jobber store? You bet - especially when they are the people who interface the most with a store's wholesale customers. Yes, I'm talking about the guy or gal starting at the entry-level wage who delivers parts to your most important customer, the professional auto repair shop. Like it or not, how Mr. or Ms. Delivery Person looks and what he or she says and does may determine your store's position on the call list.
Driving delivery is often thought of as an entry-level skill, and perhaps in many ways it is because the actual mechanics of the job are pretty simple. In other words, that person's job is to deliver the part, get a signature on the invoice, pick up the cores and returns, and then drive on to the next stop.
But to gain a better understanding of the delivery person's role, let's look at how a "professional parcel delivery person" does his job. My parcel delivery guy oozes with warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism. Despite the fact that he measures his in-and-out times in split seconds, he always radiates a cheerful smile and drops a few friendly words as I'm signing for the delivery. He knows that I need my packages as soon as possible. He also knows that my packages usually contain expensive parts or equipment and, despite those difficulties, he always gets them to me one way or another. I'm never at a loss on delivery because he's as reliable as an atomic clock, always there and always on time.
Should we expect any less of our jobber store delivery person? Of course not! Although the skill level of a delivery person may not necessarily be as high as that of a parcel delivery person, the execution of the delivery process is as important as stocking or selling the part itself. No matter what our preconceived notions might be, poor execution of a part's delivery is like a receiver fumbling the football on the one-yard line during the last 10 seconds of a Super Bowl game. Failure to deliver the right parts at the right time is like the waiter serving cake without the icing or a ballpark vendor selling the hot dog without the mustard. In other words, a miss is as good as a mile when delivering to a high-productivity repair shop.
Clearly, the most value any delivery person brings to his job is his personal attributes. A sunny disposition, for example, can smooth over the roughest waters in the parts-selling business. Let's face it: having a bad day in the automotive service business is a fact of life for most operators because vehicles are becoming more difficult to service, and their owners are less than knowledgeable about the repair process. Not only does a sunny disposition brighten up an otherwise drab day, it can iron over a glaring error like delivering the wrong part to a shop.
Promptness is another personal attribute that most operators value. After the order is placed, the part should be dispatched as soon as possible. Knowing that the delivery person isn't stopping to visit a friend or pausing to have lunch before the part is delivered can be a deciding factor when the shop places its next parts order.
And then there's professionalism. Nothing irritates a shop owner more than a delivery person who stops to visit at length with technicians and customers. Technicians, after all, need to concentrate on their work, especially when working with today's complex vehicle designs. As for customers, it simply isn't the delivery person's place to chat with customers, not unless it's a polite hello and goodbye to the people they know.
Delivery people should also practice the same fast in-and-out deliveries that professional parcel delivery people practice. Time, after all, is of the essence. Not only is it the essence of the delivery process, it's the essence of shop efficiency and productivity. The rule for any delivery person should be, "Don't let the grass grow under your feet."
Personal grooming requirements can be a hot-button issue between delivery people and jobber storeowners because it's tough to draw a line between acceptability and excess. Nevertheless, personal grooming certainly is an issue for many shop owners who are striving to improve the professionalism of the automotive service industry. Considering that many shops have invested a huge amount of money on modern customer waiting rooms, spiffy uniforms and lots of paint, lights and landscaping, the very act of having a "scruffy" delivery person drop parts off at the front counter can be considered extremely inconsiderate on behalf of the jobber.
Not that the delivery person's lack of personal grooming is a boon for the jobber either, because, as stated above, the delivery person is a walking signboard for the jobber store. But what are some realistic limits?
First, regardless of dress and hairstyle, personal cleanliness and hygiene is a must. Nobody can tolerate otherwise in a modern society. Second, while many delivery people are younger-generation people given to bizarre dress, hairstyling and jewelry, many old-timers feel that there are limits in this arena. Fortunately, clean uniforms can add a professional look to those who may be otherwise "avant-garde" in hairstyling and make-up. Professional conduct also goes a long way to alleviate a shop owner's concerns about personal accoutrements.
With all things considered, however, it's important to always remember that some shop owners can and do base their first-call decisions upon a delivery person's appearance. It might seem unfair to jobbers, but projecting a positive industry image is very important to many shop operators. Consequently, industry awareness goes a long way in determining the standards a jobber should set for his delivery people and the success he may have in maintaining his status as a first-call store.
Of course, the bottom line in any delivery person's job is performance. My experience is that the delivery person is a direct reflection of how the jobber runs his store. Delivery people who arrive on time, make sure the right parts reach the right people, pick up the cores and returns, do the appropriate paperwork and then get on with other business are the ones who represent a jobber running a "tight ship."
And then the future of the industry is also at stake. The new delivery person always has the potential of becoming the star counterperson or manager at his jobber store or even of becoming a star service writer or technician at one of the shops he serves.
Of course, we've forgotten about the senior or semi-retired person who may be driving a delivery truck. With senior drivers, a jobber certainly doesn't have to concern himself with bizarre dress or mannerisms. On the other hand, the senior driver might seem a little slow and a little too measured in his movements. But this should be considered an advantage. Not too many senior drivers are going to deliver the wrong parts to the wrong shops or forget to have the invoices signed. And now that we're done talking about delivery drivers, isn't it about time to give that old delivery truck a wax job or, better still, a new coat of paint?