When a shop service writer or technician opens a part’s box, what is it they exactly want to come out? Well, certainly the part they ordered. That’s a given. But put a group of long-time shop owners together in a room with their peers, you quickly discover they want a lot more to come out of that box than simply the part.
At the recent AAPEX/SEMA show last November in Las Vegas, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) held an informal roundtable discussion with a group of shop owners and their peers to find out what their concerns were about today’s parts supply chain and what could be done to improve part quality, service and shop profitability. Ron Pyle, president and chief staff officer with the ASA started the discussion by pointing out that off-shoring of parts manufacturing and the rise of private label and re-packaging of parts was causing many technicians and service writers to have concerns about what exactly is inside the box.
“A lot of our shop owner members and technicians were expressing to us that they were having a hard time getting a good fix on the parts they were purchasing,” Pyle said. What concerned the members was that with parts being produced in various countries and coming into North America with the same SKUs, and differences between replacement parts and what comes off the vehicle, the challenge for many was ensuring the parts coming out of the box are of high-quality and reliability.
Betty Jo Young with Young’s Automotive Center in Houston, TX said ensuring part quality was critical as vehicle owners rarely blame the replacement part if something goes wrong once their vehicles are repaired. “If I make a decision to buy a part and it fails prematurely, the customer does not say NAPA or WORLDPAC failed, but I failed. We trust our suppliers to provide us with good, quality parts.”
One way of making sure service operations and their staff get the quality parts they need would be to have much more accurate parts information available through print and online parts catalogues, suggested Dave Kusa of Autotrend Diagnostics in Campbell, CA and Tom Tippo of Tri-County Motors in Rudyard, MI. Making sure more accurate information was available would prevent a common problem of ordering parts without realizing that other parts needed to be ordered as those parts are not included together.
“We had ordered a water pump for a Chevy truck and it showed up with no gaskets,” Kusa added. “Now, I had to make the painful $40 phone call to the customer who is already spending a lot of money on a water pump and that is a surprise I don’t want to give to a customer. I don’t want to give the impression that I can’t give them an accurate estimate. It just slows everything down. Yes, having pictures in catalogues goes a long way, but what we really need is more accurate parts information so we can give customers accurate quotes and for us to know what we are ordering and to keep things running smoothly.”
“The importance of accurate cataloging came through to us when we had problems getting the right catalytic converters to the shop to help vehicles failing NOx tests,” added Bill Moss of Ferris EuroService in Warrenton, VA. “Many were getting frustrated in us not being able to find or to order the right part.”
Just as important in getting accurate part information, better training for service writers was said to be a must.
“We need training for good customer service and sales,” said Jo Young. “No matter how smart my technician is, if I don’t have a good front-counter person it will not help my technician. I want more help to have our service writer learn how to sell better and to keep up with the technology.”
“Product knowledge is so important for new service advisors and it would be great if we could just download our heads into them, but we can’t,” Moss added. “That is why we need that improved training. For folks coming outside of the industry, it will take them a while to get up to speed on the technology. The best technician in the world can’t do the best work they can if they don’t have a service advisor who is up on the technology.”
Jo Young also wanted to see parts suppliers move away from “wasting dollars on marketing campaigns like NASCAR because I have never had a customer come in saying they want a certain battery because of NASCAR. We also need better marketing targeted at woman as woman today are making key decisions about vehicle repair and the purchasing decision on the vehicles to buy.”