Soon it will be 2011 the time to position your company for continued success. Yes, this is a time of economic pressure for all of us our customers, fellow employees and all businesses. Sitting on the sidelines and blaming the economy will not help improve things. We can and must make positive, productive changes. Years ago, there were parts stores that sat and waited for the customer to come in with no input or assistance from their counterpeople. Today, most of these stores are no longer in business. History repeats itself.
All parts professionals can help. Simple gestures go a long way to increase sales and help your company and the economy. In our combined more than 80 years in the automotive aftermarket, we have been through the best and worst of times gas lines in the 1970s, runaway inflation, 20 percent interest rates in the 1980s, recessions, 9/11, wars yet we managed to overcome these and other business obstacles.
How, you ask? We identified, adjusted and embraced pending changes. We manned the phones, made frequent customer visits, empowered all fellow workers (now the term is team members) to make adjustments as necessary, as long as these adjustments were documented, customer-friendly and did not affect overall profits. Yet, there was one area we never compromised on: customer service.
Answering the phone with a smile as well as greeting all walk-in customers with a friendly, helpful “hello” sets the tone to make a sale and build a business relationship. We are in a service industry selling a product. How many times have you helped a mechanic or DIY customer diagnose a problem or made recommendations that helped the customer remedy the problem? We must go back to the basics of unparalleled customer service. It sounds very simple: someone calls or comes in to your store asks for a part. You look it up, go to the shelf, get the part and hand it to your customer. They pay for the item, go to their shop or garage, install the item, it fixes their car and everybody is all smiles. But you the parts professional, know the real truth.
The astute counterpro knows his market and customers better than any management software. A sharp counterpro can make recommendations not only for new merchandise, but also to assist in setting stocking levels for existing SKUs, as well as help facilitate returning slower-moving items. These are simple things a counter professional can do continually help their store prosper. How about making recommendations for new sales promotions, working with office staff, drivers, warehouse personnel and management to come up with innovative ideas? Remember, no single person has all the answers.
In 1986 after attending a major industry trade show, we realized that there could be additional sales potential by having our own jobber store trade show. We took a gamble and rented a catering facility for an evening. The facility had to be large enough to provide two separate rooms, one for a buffet dinner and the other for supplier booths. Twenty-five manufacturers participated, as well as most of the staff from our stores.
All of our customers along with their spouses were invited. We also asked them to bring along other shops, fleets or related automotive businesses. Three hundred-plus people attended, resulting in $100,000 in additional sales. We continued to see residual sales for the next six months, picked up 10 new customers and increased sales from existing accounts.
Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop. For more information, go to www.autobizsolutionsllc.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.