You may have heard of the value triangle of price, service and quality. Historically, the value triangle has been presented as a "pick two" option. A customer opting for price and service did so at the expense of quality. A customer opting for price and quality did so at the expense of service. And the customer opting for service and quality did so at the expense of price.
But as we all know, customers now want it cheaper, faster and better. Suppliers say "pick two," and customers demand all three. I suggest the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The total value of our products and services is the sum of the price, service and quality components when combined in varying degrees. Heres the reason: You may strategically position your company between service and quality, but you cant totally discount the importance of price. Its still a factor. It would be very difficult to be faster, better and cheaper. But it is necessary to be faster, better and competitive. Even if the split is 45 percent quality, 45 percent service and 10 percent price, the sum of our value triangle is still 100 percent.
Why is this important? Because we are all constantly being pulled by consumers to be better, faster and cheaper. Because of our desire to succeed in the realm of customer service we would like to be everything to everybody all the time. But the reality is we probably cant.
The auto parts business is profit driven for manufacturers, warehouse distributors, jobbers and service dealers. Maybe wed like to think that theres a higher calling within our existence, and there may be. There are multiple objectives within our mission statement with humanitarian, social and benevolent overtones. But the fact remains that a not-for-profit or non-profit organization would have a much more difficult time reaching those non-profit-driven objectives by not being self-funding-sufficient.
Now that weve reviewed the reality check, where is it exactly your organization fits on the value triangle? Try this simple experiment. Draw and label the value triangle as illustrated. Ask each of your colleagues, "Where do you see our company on the value triangle?" The results may surprise you. Do we all see ourselves the same? If not, there may be some leadership issues within the company regarding "sharing the vision." But more importantly, on a go-forward basis, isnt it important that we are all on the same page?
I am a proponent of gathering people to generate the feedback that fuels continuous improvement. The gathering may be a service dealer meeting. What better way to find out how you are operating your business than with customer feedback? The gathering may be a store, department or management meeting. Did you ever feel that the right hand didnt know what the left hand was doing? Regular meetings discussing what you did, what you are doing and what you are going to do next may improve communication and help share the vision.
All of this really is important to our position within the value triangle because once we determine our strategic position and share the value, we must ultimately allocate the resources to accomplish our goals and objectives. For example, if you determine that your business is quality and service driven, (minimizing price), and you have to pick between good, better and best product offerings, which would you choose? Better and best? If you determine that your business is service and price driven, which would you choose? Good and better?
Assuming that we have limited resources, its important that we are all on the same page, otherwise we may be investing assets in products and/or services that dont really contribute to our strategic direction, therefore being under-utilized.
THE DO IT TRIANGLE
Which leads me to my final point the "Do It" triangle. In the automotive business weve long been used to the terms "Do It Yourself" (DIY) and "Do It For Me" (DIFM) specifically applied to maintenance and repair. I believe the terms DIY and DIFM also apply to our businesses, taking up two corners of the "Do It" triangle. But additionally, we should consider adding the term "DIT" or "Do It Together" to the triangle. I believe most of what we do within our business can be plotted within the Do It triangle. I also believe we may surprise ourselves by how many functions that we either currently do ourselves (DIY) or expect done for us (DIFM) would be better off if we did them together "DIT."
For example, across all industries there are three basic methods of inventory management. The first method is simply customer-managed inventory or DIY. Theres a popular list and buyers guide. As a WD, I decide what you should stock. This method may also be known as the good luck method.
The second method of inventory management is vendor-managed inventory or DIFM. I have the resources and the information. Ill decide what you need to stock. This method may also be known as the trust me method.
The third method of inventory management commonly referred to as CPFR stands for collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment. This method is arguably a more DIT approach. I have the resources and information. And based on your business, plan and market, and feedback, lets decide together what you need to stock.
Another example may be sales effort. I believe we need to manage within our environment. And our industry continues to struggle with representation. Fewer people and larger territories equate to an environment thats different. Therefore, we must manage to a different environment because our former approach will no longer be as effective. We relied heavily on sales representatives to DIFM. Make the call, the pitch, the close, the changeover, the quality issue call and the follow up. But in an environment in which there are fewer people and larger territories, this is becoming more difficult to achieve, especially when compounded by our discussion of the value triangle where customers want it better, faster and cheaper.
We would like to think that we could fulfill (DIY) many of the roles and responsibilities that we have come to take for granted and may now have trouble fulfilling for our customers. You could argue our sales representatives have both the ability and the willingness to fulfill those roles and responsibilities. Therefore, given the right tools and training, our sales representatives could in fact fulfill certain roles and responsibilities currently being un- or under-fulfilled within todays environment.
And there you have it; weve come full circle. Together were better. Lets Do It Together. When we utilize all of our resources to their fullest, customer satisfaction increases and company profits grow.