I am honored and proud to write for Counterman, and I try very hard to represent the ideals and issues that I believe are appropriate to the readers.
But, sometimes I wish there was another publication called, Outside Salesman, or Delivery Driver, because the roles of these people in our industry are equally as important, yet these roles are also frequently misunderstood by those who work the counter.
In general, parts professionals have a wonderful buffer between themselves and most of their customers. They are invisible to them. Most parts pros never actually see their customers face-to-face. That is a luxury not afforded to delivery drivers, or outside salespeople, who must frequently “face” the realities of dealing with customers one-on-one.
Frequently, it’s the delivery drivers and the outside salespeople of our auto parts stores who have to deal with the most difficult situation we face in business – a disappointed customer. Every day, outside salespeople and delivery people walk into the businesses of customers that have been served by parts pros and are blind-sided by a virtual powder keg, set off because something back at the store went awry.
Is this just part of the job? Maybe for outside salespeople, who are generally compensated more for confronting situations just like this, but certainly not delivery drivers.
I remember a cold winter day in Minnesota when I was making a sales call on my largest customer. The customer, Ron, had called my store a few minutes earlier and in the heat of battle, ordered a 10-pack case of eighteen-inch snow blades, popular in snow country. The counterman billed the product correctly, but the dispatcher pulled the order incorrectly and sent regular eighteen-inch wiper blades. When the driver, Karen, arrived at the installer’s business, and after Ron had signed the invoice, he suddenly noticed he had been sent the wrong ones. His reaction was to throw the box of blades back at Karen, as if throwing a spear. A few four-letter words accompanied his action.
Karen started crying and told me she was quitting her job. Ron and I had a talk about the value of good, dependable delivery drivers that morning and my expectation of how they would be treated.
A real story? You better believe it, and less drastic, but just as uncomfortable situations happen to delivery drivers and outside salespeople in our industry every day.
You may not be a delivery driver or an outside salesperson, so why am I dedicating this space to issues not directly related to your scope of responsibilities? The reason is simple: These people are an important part of your team. They’re an important part of the industry. They are the face your customers see everyday.
When was the last time you pulled the delivery drivers of your store aside and really thanked them for what they do for you? In a busy auto parts store, it’s very likely that there are two drivers supporting the efforts of each counter pro. What would you do without them?
Not only do delivery drivers get all of your parts to all of your customers, they greet them for you, they listen to their problems, they bring back your screw-ups, they issue credits for core returns and most importantly, they are your face-to-face contact with every customer. A lot of responsibility? Absolutely, and they are never given enough credit, or compensation for what they do.
If the outside salespeople in your company seem like prima donnas to you, perhaps you should take a closer look. What are they doing while they are having that cup of coffee in the morning, before they leave the store? If they are in and out a lot during the day, what circumstances might they be dealing with that demand that they return to the store? And what are their responsibilities when they get back to the store each evening? That closer look will tell you that their work is certainly different from yours, but frequently, just as demanding.
What matters is that you recognize these other players as an important part of your team. They are a part of the team that you could never get along without. The next time a delivery driver, or an outside salesman, faces a customer and accepts responsibility on behalf of your company because of a mistake you made, be sure to pull them aside and thank them for what they did.
Walking a mile in another person’s shoes isn’t just a good expression, it’s a good idea. On a slow day, ask your manager or owner if you can ride along with a delivery driver, or perhaps the outside salesman sometime. I can assure you that you will get a whole other perspective on what a terrific contribution these folks make to your success every day.