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Creating Better Customers


3/1/2003

 

Despite all the soft and fuzzy reasons companies say they provide training, there's still one hard fact: Training makes better customers. That's a major reason why many manufacturers continue to operate robust counter and technician training programs. Training leads to higher average tickets and reduced comebacks, and that's great for everyone manufacturer, WD, store and technician.

Last month, Counterman's Super Store list included details of the 20 largest auto parts chains in the United States. Not surprisingly, all of these mega-store chains offer strong training programs. All offer formalized training programs for store and store management personnel and the vast majority of these stores also provide technical and shop management training to their commercial customers.

Gotta Know What You Sell
Training at the store and shop level can take many forms and come from a variety of sources. Historically, manufacturers have been a strong source of technical training in particular, both for the technician and the counter professional who must understand the product in order to be able to successfully sell it.

Unfortunately training is a lot like art or foreign language class; when things get tough both tend to get overlooked for funding or they get cut altogether.

It's no different for parts manufacturers, some of which have seen their training budgets dwindle and staffs evaporate. But many manufacturers do see the value in training at both the technician and counter level. The quality of these programs vary, so talk to others in the industry to see what the "word on the street" is about specific training programs.

There are still many strong manufacturer that have put extra emphasis on technical training programs for counter professionals and their technician customers. Taking advantage of these programs is relatively easy, but knowing which training program go beyond pizza and soda may not be so simple. There are credentials to which that manufacturer training programs can aspire.

The CASE program, for example, offers a certification for providers of training for working technicians. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) evaluates the training providers' process of developing and delivering training and then recommends certification as an ASE Certified Training Provider of Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE).

Training providers order CASE materials (Standards, Application, Polices/Procedures) from NATEF. After completing their self-evaluation, the provider submits copies of their completed CASE application for review by NATEF. If deemed complete by NATEF, a one-day on-site evaluation is scheduled and undertaken with an Evaluation Team Leader (ETL) and team members. After the on-site evaluation, the ETL makes a report and a recommendation to NATEF for certification of the training provider. NATEF reviews the report and circulates it to the members of the In-Service Training Committee. With committee agreement, NATEF notifies the provider that they have received ASE certification as a training provider of Continuing Automotive Service Education. If the provider is not eligible for certification, NATEF will identify the areas needing improvement.

On the following pages, you'll find many manufacturer-sponsored training programs. Take advantage of them and you'll find you've created better employees and customers.

MANAGERS AS TRAINERS
Duke Young swung the Bible toward the ceiling, thumping it as he raised it to his face.

"You need to 'thump the Bible,' for your employees," stressed Young to those in attendance at the University of the Aftermarket Executive Forum, held last month in Tampa, FL, in conjunction with AWDA Committee Day. Young is President of Pat Young Service Co., a Cleveland-area WD and store group. His presentation stressed how being a manager also means being a trainer of sorts.

This was no old-time revival, but Young's Pat Young Service is an old-time WD, focused on servicing independently owned repair shops. Young's point was not one of preaching, but of management style. He said that as a company leader, an essential job is one of cheerleader, someone who constantly reminds his employees of the company vision. In a way, Young and others in his position, must be preachers of a sort, guiding their sometimes reluctant and wayward employees to a common goal.

Young said that as the leader of his company he must preach this vision over and over thumping the Bible is the metaphor he used to get this message across to the distribution and manufacturing executives in attendance. Young said this Bible thumping was necessary because so many employees are resistant to change. One of the major changes that Pat Young went through was the slow process of leaning more toward a two-step distribution business model.

The migration to becoming a two-stepper was a gradual process for another Executive Forum speaker, Willi Alexander of Parts Depot (Roanoke, VA). For Alexander, some of his greatest challenges are margin pressure, rising costs and managing profits.

Alexander, whose Virginia company operates 90 stores and 18 DCs, advised those in attendance to coach their employees much like Young's Bible thumping to get them to understand the big picture. He said he wants his store employees to better know the lines and to sell the entire store, not just the specials.

"It's not (the price at which) you buy; it's the price at which you sell," he said.

All businesses, not just Young's and Alexander's, face rising insurance costs. To address this, Alexander's company took a two-pronged approach: They raised their deductible to $250,000 and put more focus on safety.

Alexander said this approach can reduce insurance costs if safety is properly managed. Amen to that!













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