Parts proliferation. These are powerful words to just about everyone in the automotive parts business.
What exactly does this mean to the parts pro, the wholesale parts buyer or most importantly, our customers?
By definition, proliferation means to increase greatly in number or a sudden increase in number or amount.
The parts professional knows that it is impossible to have all parts for all cars on the shelf, but try explaining this to your customer who needs a particular part to complete a job.
Inventory management is vital to the success of all parts stores today. Is it better to stock three or four partial brake lines due to possible price issues or recommend to management to stock good and best lines in depth? This second scenario will free up inventory dollars to stock items that are not commonly sold every day and make you a hero to your customer who is looking for that hard-to-find part.
The wholesale parts buyer, the one who controls the inventory dollars, may not be all that happy with this increase in spending. If the overall cost of this increased inventory of not commonly sold items (parts that move only once in a 12- to 24-month period) start to affect dollars needed to run the business, there will be a pullback.
Most educated wholesale buyers recognize that there are life cycles for parts replacement. If an OE part has a normal lifespan of 30,000 miles there is certainly no reason to have it in stock as soon as the number becomes available from the manufacturer, as opposed to a common wear item such as brakes or filters. Somehow this replacement concept has to be explained to our technician customers.
On the other hand, when it comes to our technician customer, all of this great strategy goes right out the window. Our customer only cares about one thing completing the repair job!
So how do we deal with this neverending dilemma? Here are a few ideas that have worked for us over the past 40 years.
First and foremost, involve your customer in the inventory stocking decisions of your company and show them how this will benefit their business. Involving your customer will give them a feeling of not only ownership and participation between the two companies, but also will show a concern on your part for the technician’s business success. What a great way to create or build long-lasting relationships.
Have you ever created or run a customer focus group? This meeting between you, your management team (possibly your salesman or counter staff) and a few of your more influential customers usually yields a vast amount of insight for everyone involved. This obviously should be conducted as a non-adversarial casual dinner meeting with a pre-set agenda. The agenda should enable everyone to engage in discussions on topics that will create value for all involved.
Our meetings looked at items such as business and worker’s compensation insurance for the technician. We invited an insurance agent to make a presentation one evening, complete with handouts and a question-and-answer session. Suggestions from our customers involved topics such as shop labor rates, technician productivity and how to properly charge for diagnostic services.
Our customers thoroughly enjoyed these evenings and looked forward to future sessions. As an automotive jobber, this is a terrific tool to build the relationships you have with your better customers.
Feel free to contact us for any information we can supply on how to proceed with the preparation; set-up and monitoring of a customer-based focus group. We will be happy to participate.
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.