Today, ordering goods and services online is the norm for many in North America. No one thinks twice of ordering books from Amazon.com or Chapters.ca; booking airline tickets with any number of online travel sites; or even securing the hotel room for the weekend getaway with the hotel’s online reservation system. In each case, these online services have provided a wealth of savings and efficiencies for businesses and consumers alike.
Since the late 1990s, the aftermarket has been slowly moving towards giving independent service providers the same kinds of online services for parts ordering and delivery that consumers have been enjoying for some years with the ordering of books and airline tickets. Independent service providers are finding that online parts ordering allows them to better control their costs and improve their overall business operations, with many wondering how they every operated their services shops without the Internet before.
Integrating the Internet into shop management practices
One of the advantages given for ordering goods or services over the Internet is the efficiencies that can be had. However, those efficiencies can only be had if an independent service shop knows how to integrate online ordering with the shop’s customer management philosophy and approach to service.
Richard Dansereau, general manager with the Calgary-based L.A.D.’s Auto Repair has been ordering parts through online systems for some time, and finds it hard to think of going back to the old way of picking up a phone and calling the warehouse distributor or jobber to order most parts.
“The old way of ordering parts (by phone) seemed to us a bit of a waste of time,” Dansereau said. “Online ordering allows us to do things a lot faster now.”
What Dansereau means is his shop managers and service writers can quickly go online and directly hook onto their warehouse distributor’s online ordering sites and see what parts are available in stock in real-time, get an accurate and up-to-date-price, and then quickly get that information back to the customer with the cost of the work and part. This means that a customer is not left waiting to hear back about the cost of the labour and the parts needed as the shop calls the warehouse distributor or jobber to find if the parts are available, a process that sometimes can take fifteen minutes or more.
Dansereau added since L.A.D.’s Auto Repair operates under a maintenance model, online parts’ ordering allows his shop to better schedule the work of his technicians and get the parts they need right when they need them.
“We are a shop that likes to book the next appointment (for our customers) and we will book them an appointment some three to five days ahead of time, and we can then order the parts we need online and have them here at the shop ready for when the vehicle arrives,” he said.
Dansereau added with online ordering this pre-ordering of parts can even be done after closing. So a shop can book an appointment to look at a customer’s vehicle, find out what needs to be done, put the order in during the evening when things have calmed down and know that the order and invoice for the parts will on the jobber’s desk first thing in the morning and ready to be acted on right away.
Jamie Stevens, owner of Steven’s Auto Electric in Grimsby, Ont. has been ordering parts online for a little over a year, taking part in testing in Canada of ACDelco’s Web Integrated Service Environment (WISE), a shop management system that features an online ordering module. Like, Dansereau, he finds ordering parts from his ACDelco affiliated jobber helps in getting that information back to the customer faster thereby improving customer service and loyalty.
Stevens added what he most appreciates about online ordering is that with ACDelco’s system he can see the part he’s going to order, get information about its specs and other information that cuts down on the chances of making an ordering mistake.
But he quickly added that online ordering also has not eliminated the role of the jobber or warehouse distributor in any way. In fact, jobbers and warehouse distributors still play an important role in helping to answer questions about parts that might not be able to be found online, or to confirm that a specific part is the right one for a particular kind of vehicle and its problem.
“Ordering online is very simple to use,” Dansereau added. “Things are pretty much all point and click right now, and there is not much room for error. There were more mistakes being made ordering over the phone than online. You could count on a mistake being made every week because of some kind of miscommunication.”
Jobbers, manufactures taking the lead online
One of the biggest boosters of the value and power of online parts ordering has been the jobbers and parts manufactures. Independent service providers have strong allies when going online as today’s major jobbers and parts manufactures have strong online ordering systems and tools readily available; and are looking to get more of their service provider clients online and clicking away on orders.
ACDelco has for some time offered two unique solutions for online ordering: WISE and WIP (WISE Internet Parts). WISE is ACDelco, full-blown shop management system with the online parts ordering mechanism built-in and connected to the other shop management systems of the program. WIP is essentially the same online parts ordering systems in WISE, but offered as a stand-alone feature that can be given to service shops by their ACDelco warehouse distributor.
“The rule is that if the warehouse distributor has any customer purchasing anywhere between $500-$600 a month in parts, they can be given WIP, which is a browser-based application that allows them to order parts online easily,” said Stephen Sigg, e-business manager with ACDelco in Grand Blanc, Mich.
Sigg added WIP is an excellent way for a service shop to start ordering online and seeing the cost and time savings benefits right away. As a shop grows, it can start moving to using WISE’s more advanced management tools and then integrating online ordering with those management tools.
Eric Knogler, president of the Saskatoon, Sask.-based Sutherland Automotive has some 32 service providers on WIP and he said the response amongst them has been excellent.
“It is the way to go for many of them,” Knogler added. “It is so straight forward and easy to use, simply point-and-click, they love it.”
Normand Delisle, director of operations for IT with CARQUEST CANADA LTD. in Rexdale, Ont. said CARQUEST’s Weblink online ordering system gives service providers a wide-range of flexibility in how to order parts online. Weblink offers a parts catalogue with real-time availability and pricing, parts search using parts number without linecodes, labour guide, purchase order history and service intervals and parts using information from OEM maintenance intervals for vehicles.
“The advantages of going online are improving customer relations and communications,” he added. “You can quickly go online and check availability, get answers quickly and use that to communicate with your customer more effectively.”
James Osborne, general manager for WORLDPAC Canada Inc. in Mississauga, Ont. said WORLDPAC’s speedDIAL online systems also offers real-pricing and availability of parts, high-resolution images of parts, a means to create return merchandise authorizations and manufacture links and forums to communicate with other technicians and service providers using speedDIAL. It also gives shops proof of delivery and estimated time of delivery of parts.