Some time back, I wrote about how Jim Anderton and I spent a good deal of time running about looking for some small exhaust parts for a video shoot that were not readily at hand. We managed to find th...
Some time back, I wrote about how Jim Anderton and I spent a good deal of time running about looking for some small exhaust parts for a video shoot that were not readily at hand. We managed to find the parts after some about and completed the shoot without too much fuss afterwards.
Well, Jim and I recently ran into a similar problem with a critical suspension part breaking during a video shoot on ride control work. We knew we would need to replace the part and a little time would be required to get that part. What happened next is a textbook example of how poor customer service and inventory control can make a simple job needlessly complicated.
What we needed was simple, a Monroe Sensa-Trac shock for a Ford F-150. This should be an easy part to find. You are dealing with one of the most common vehicles out on North American roads -any parking lot today likely has a half-dozen about at a quick glance -and one of the most popular of replacement parts. Needing the part quickly we went to a local parts store. They did not have the part in stock, which surprised us; but even grocery stores run out of milk sometimes. The fellow in the parts department was apologetic, checked his inventory system and said the part was in-stock in another location a few kilometers away. When we arrived, things began to go terribly wrong. First, we were left waiting for 20 minutes with nary a counterperson in sight. When we managed to get someone to look for the part, they returned with an empty box! Someone had taken the shock out, for whatever reason, and returned the empty box to the shelves. No one had bothered to update the inventory lists to note the missing product and order replacement stock. We were forced to go another location. We managed to get the shock but noticed that while the shock we needed was in stock, the location did not have other lower-priced but similar replacements for that model of Ford F-150 in case someone needed alternatives in terms of price-point.
So why am I writing about this? Two things are critical to a successful business, customer service and inventory control. No matter what the business happens to be, a local ice cream stand or an independent service shop, it cannot afford to leave a customer standing about waiting for someone to appear so they can receive some help. On a personal level, I dislike being put on hold by customer service people or having to wait to ask a simple question. Do that enough times and my person and dollars go elsewhere. Do that to your customers and don’t be surprise if they go somewhere else. As I’ve argued before, customer loyalty is fickle: it is easily given and just-as-quickly taken away.
This is why it is also critical to have proper inventory control and knowledge of your customer base. If you know many of your customers drive a particular make and model of vehicle, you will want to make sure to have plenty of parts at-hand so as to quickly fix any problems that vehicle may have. I would understand that if Jim and I drove a Bentley Mulsanne or a Pagani Zonda Roadster there might not be parts available; but for a vehicle as common and popular as a Ford F-150, if a shop -let alone a national retailer -did not have some parts on the premise or could not source them quickly, I would have reservations about doing business with there.
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