Listening to various aftermarket leaders describe customer behaviours they’re seeing these days can easily make one reminiscent of the movie Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. It’s of course based on the classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In particular, one character jumps to mind: Veruca Salt. She’s a spoiled daughter who wants everything. And she usually gets it, thanks to her enabling father. In the movie, she sings about how she wants everything, particularly a goose that lays golden eggs. She meets her demise when she steps on a scale that grades freshly laid eggs. She’s deemed a bad egg by the analyzer and is sent through a trap door to the incinerator.
While the book came out in the 1960s and the movie a decade later (no, the remake didn’t happen as far as I’m concerned), Salt is very much seen in perhaps the vast majority of consumers: They see something they want — and they want it now. It can be anything from a light bulb to dinner — consumers have been accustomed to pulling out their smartphone, opening an app, tapping on what they want and expecting it shortly thereafter.
And the definition of “shortly” is pretty clear — if it’s a product, it should arrive the next day. Call it the Amazon Prime effect.
The aftermarket doesn’t and hasn’t operated that way. Your shop customers do indeed expect you to deliver an order immediately once it’s placed. But retail customers have perhaps been more flexible. Until now, that is.
Experts recently discussed the change in consumer habits during the pandemic. So long as Amazon remains the elephant in the room — or in the channel — traditional aftermarket outlets will be hard-pressed to satisfy consumer demands for quick shipping. Otherwise, they’ll turn to the online giants to get what they need.
So what can you do? Brent Berman, vice president of repair products at First Brands Group, offered some advice: It will be key to leverage those in-person customers to your online platform and have them think of you first when shopping online instead of the other digital platforms.
“As far as winning [in the aftermarket], I think the traditional guys do have those handshake relationships. And it’s going to be up to them to parlay that into kind of a more e-commerce space,” he said.
Jobbers will need to rely on those tried-and-true customer service techniques more than ever: Have a smile on your face, offer great service, be reliable, offer the expert advice they need and be able to deliver — both service and products.
Then it will be up to you to deliver on their expectations: Getting them what they want quickly. After all, the customer has changed — they need to see that you have changed along with them.