Electronic Ordering: What Are We Talking About Here?

By Mark Phillips

I’ve been talking to both parts and repair professionals lately who have differing opinions on electronic ordering.
Mark Phillips
Last month, I talked about the trend of more and more parts stores getting Internet access — finally.
So, on another technology topic, how many of your customers order their parts and shop supplies from you electronically? I’ve been talking to both parts and repair professionals lately who have differing opinions on electronic ordering.

One well-trafficked repair shop in California estimates they do about 30 percent of their ordering electronically. The manager of one chain of jobber stores estimated 40 percent of their professional sales come from shops that order electronically.

But when talking about electronic ordering, it might help to discuss exactly what constitutes electronic ordering. By some shops’ definitions, it can mean that a technician or service writer checks the availability and price electronically, then calls the jobber store on the phone to verify that information. So, by definition, no real
electronic ordering happened there. The final order was taken over the phone.

On the jobber side, some stores don’t consider an electronic order truly “electronic” if, even though a technician or service writer completes the order electronically on their side, a parts pro keys in the order into their system to generate a parts receipt. In some instances, an order is considered completely electronic if a shop orders online and the only human contact on the parts side is picking the order and driving it to the shop. One store manager I spoke to has a professional customer who orders 90 percent of their parts electronically in this manner, but this appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

One shop owner I spoke to who orders electronically doesn’t want to see phone contact with jobbers completely go away. He finds that human contact essential. Who, he wonders, do you talk to when the computer is wrong?
It may seem like semantics, but I think it helps to at least try to define the terms that get used on a daily basis because we may find that not everyone agrees on what those terms mean.

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