How often do jobbers get a chance to hear the unvarnished views that automotive service providers have about their relationship with suppliers?
Actually, it happens all the time.
There are frequent opportunities to get a “service providers perspective” at aftermarket events. Whether at association conferences, banner program events, training weekends, or industry trade shows, it seems to be a routine part of the agenda to ask the thorny question of what technicians, service advisors, and shop owners are looking for from their supply chain.
It has been a staple of events organized by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada for years, encouraging open dialogue and a frank exchange of ideas.
Here are the top four themes that come up time after time:
Shops quickly become associated with the quality of the components they install. Their customers play a role in that. When cheaper alternatives are requested, shops have to respond or risk losing a customer.
But many shops also have a self-imposed minimum quality threshold, and they expect their suppliers to have a similar policy in place.
Off-shore, white box parts with no reputation or meaningful warranty won’t do. And even brand names that no longer meet the bar of fit, form, and function are frowned upon.
Shops are looking for suppliers that keep a vigilant eye on parts quality, and make adjustment as needed.
“Your part becomes our part the minute we put it on the car,” said one shop owner at a recent conference. “That’s how the customer views it. It came from us, not you. So if there’s a problem with it, it comes back to our door.”
Technicians and shop owners want to know that quality parts are available to them so they can side-step the kind of performance issues that plague low-cost alternatives.
Every jobber has a story about a training event that was poorly attended. Why, they ask, are technicians not showing up for class? But the opposite concern is often voiced at public events. The question becomes why are jobbers and manufacturers failing to provide quality training alternatives on relevant topics at times that are convenient and venues that are comfortable?
Everyone knows that technological advances will strain the competency of technicians who are not developing new skills. Shops will reward manufacturers and jobbers that offer them cutting-edge training that truly brings results.
Continued education leads to improved profitability and customer trust. Shops that have embraced a culture of learning need a supplier that can help them stay on top of technology.
Return policies that work
Jobbers and manufacturers may harbour justified concerns about warranty abuse, but automotive repair and maintenance shops don’t like working without a safety net. Given prevailing concerns about product quality and the efforts by some companies to control parts proliferation by combining part numbers, the market needs reasonable return policies.
Not only does it give shops peace of mind about the parts they buy, but it conveys supply chain confidence.
The old adage that shop owners are often technicians who “graduated” into ownership without taking any real business training is still pretty accurate. More resources are available to help shop owners who are more comfortable with an oscilloscope than an Excel file.
Jobbers have an important role to play in ensuring that their customers are literate about their businesses. A suite of new metrics are being tracked by successful service operations. Are your customers using them? Can you offer some guidance and direction?
Service providers need partners who are invested in the success of their shops. Whether it is with business consultations, management training, or access to financial advice, shop owners want to know that they’ve partnered up with someone who understands the industry and can help them meet their goals.
Not sure how your operation is doing in meeting that expectation? The first step is reaching out to your client customers to find out what grade they’d give you on a report card.