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Opinion

Never Say ‘No’

When customers call, do you ever say you don’t have “it?” Not having “it” puts your business on the fast track to killing your relationship with a customer.

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My job has a lot of perks. One of those perks is that I get to travel all over the country, visiting with program groups, manufacturers, warehouses and, of course, stores of all sorts. I get to witness firsthand, the good, the bad, the ugly, the attractive, what works and what doesn’t.

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Last weekend, I was in a regional retailer buying some antifreeze. I wasn’t there in any “official” capacity, but since I was in a parts store, my natural aftermarket journalistic instincts just wouldn’t allow me to complete the transaction without asking a few questions.

“How’s business been?” I asked innocently. The first part of the winter had been a little warmer than usual and I wondered if that had negatively impacted the walk-in trade that is so vital to this particular store. Additionally, this retailer had recently been acquired, and I wanted to know if the rank and file had noticed any big changes.

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“Things have been okay,” the counterman responded. “The only big change since (the acquisition) was that we got a new computer system. Oh, and we also added a commercial desk.”

It turns out that the store had never had a wholesale program, and now it was testing the waters. It had added two delivery trucks and a separate phone line and desk to handle what they hoped would be brisk wholesale traffic.

“That’s interesting,” I said. “How is that new program working out?”

“Not good,” he responded flatly. “They’re trying to sell stuff we don’t have.”

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Well, now there’s the problem. You can’t sell what you don’t have. And not having it — whatever “it” happens to be — is a death sentence for any wholesale program. Deep and broad inventories are the lifeblood of any viable wholesale program. By not investing in inventory, stores are essentially killing their wholesale programs even before they have a chance of succeeding.

This month, we’re debuting a new column by Son’s Auto Supply owner Mike Demers. His take on “having it” is one that this store should adopt. Mike once wrote, “Never say ‘no.’ If you drive an ox cart and need an ox, please call. Need to replace the poppet-style injectors on your 4:3? We have the number for the electronic replacement. Need a custom DOT-approved brake hose? I can make it. Need your A/C hose repaired? No problem. Working on a ’53 Cad? Sure, we can find those parts. Need a computer flashed? No problem. Only need a stat gasket? Yes, we’ll deliver that. All the other stores sent the wrong parts? Tell me your story, and if I don’t know what you’re describing, I am not too proud to ask for help.”

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Those are great words to work by. Never say ‘no.’ By living by that creed, you give your customers a lot of reasons to say ‘yes.’

Mike’s first column, What’s Wrong with Customer Service?, can be found under the section ‘WD Deliveries.’

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