By DeWayne Demland
The difference between a great parts specialist and a good parts specialist is a small line. What does it take to be a true parts specialist?
They are problem-solvers: A true parts specialist understands that he/she has one job; they are a problem-solver. They don’t pass the buck and they “own” the problem until it’s resolved. A customer comes to them with a problem and expects them to solve it, not create another one or ignore the one that they have brought to them. The term “customer” in this statement is a very broad definition. It may be someone that comes into your shop, if you are in a parts store, or a service technician in a fleet service bay.
They offer superior customer service: This is one of the most important characteristics that these professionals have and it sets them apart from all the others. So how does someone provide superior customer service? First, they’re interested in the customer and ensuring the customer’s needs are met. And they understand that every customer is valuable. Consider Walmart, for example. Managers there are taught that if a disgruntled customer walks out of the store, never to return, the company would lose $250,000 over the rest of that customer’s lifetime. It’s not hard to imagine that considering a child born in 2008 would cost his or her parents $291,570 by the age of 18, according to a report by the U.S. Agriculture Department. We’ve all been in a store where one customer appears to be given “star” treatment, and another is given the cold shoulder. Make sure every customer is a star.
They keep learning: You can’t provide superior customer service without knowledge. The most obvious would be product knowledge, and as this is a big area, to say that it is the most important probably would be the wrong emphasis. Knowledge of the differences between the manufacturers of a component and why one is better than the other is only one aspect of product knowledge. For example, knowing how the system of a vehicle works will help you serve the customer better. To be a problem-solver, you have to understand what the problem is before you can help to fix it. Education on these systems of a vehicle is a very important aspect of this job. It’s imperative that parts professionals take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow in the position. A true parts specialist never has to be told to attend a training seminar. They’re the ones who offer up ideas about which classes and seminars to attend and work to cover their shift in order to go.
They’re great communicators: Good communication skills are paramount when working with customers. Getting a customer what they “need” is not always the same as what they want. Knowing how to handle each of these situations will make a customer look up to you and come back for more parts. In some instances, you are better off losing a sale and keeping the customer coming back, rather than making the sale and losing him or her because it did not solve the problem. The old adage “the customer is always right” is long gone. We have to realize, as they do, no one knows everything. How you communicate this to them will make you a hero or a jerk. There is no such thing as over-communicating, but there is definitely a problem with under-communicating.
To survive in this business, we need repeat customers. To get loyal, repeat customers, you have to have be a true parts professional.
DeWayne Demland began working in the family auto parts store at a very young age. He’s been a manager and has earned more than 100 manufacturers’ training certifications. He’s also taught the auto parts business to high school and university students. He currently is designing an online training program for aftermarket parts professionals.