Auto Service World
Feature   March 10, 2016   by Steve Pawlett

From Bricks To Clicks: How Online Ordering Is Changing The Playing Field

Thanks primarily to the computerization of every aspect of daily life, the speed at which business is conducted today has increased dramatically. Smartphones and other modern interactive electronics are creating customers who are now better informed, and thus more demanding. For repair shops, this translates into dealing with more knowledgeable customers, who research a repair shop online and then come in with very high expectations for service.
To meet this increasing demand for fast, efficient service, repair shops, in turn, look to their first-call jobber for that same level of support. And if it’s not there, they will find an alternate source for parts, and that new source is not necessarily another jobber. More and more shops are now looking to online order houses such as RockAuto.
Survey respondents – 238 in all over a one-week period – complained about the poor quality of many jobber online ordering sites. Parts catalogues were not up to date, or the site wasn’t user-friendly or compatible with various platforms.
As one respondent put it, “Many counterpeople are not well-educated in the art of listening. It becomes faster and in most cases, easier, to order online.”
“I usually shop where I get reliable counterpeople who will keep in touch with us if we are tied up for a part. I find that most counterpeople won’t even take the time to call us back if we can’t have that part within a couple hours. Today’s counter staff lack responsibility or care about service. I am planning on more RockAuto purchases in the coming years, where I won’t have the frustration of dealing with counterpeople anymore.”
“Jobbers sell a lot of parts at my cost to walk-in DIYers, so we are looking for a more dedicated jobber. It’s hard to beat RockAuto for online ordering. They offer great pricing and fast shipping. When jobbers stop selling to walk-ins at my price, I will increase my purchases.”
“It’s about customer service and customer support. Having a good relationship throughout the jobber operation: from the driver that drops off the parts, to the rep that visits our shop, to the counterperson who picks up the phone and the managers we deal with when there is a problem.”
While this may not be a huge revelation for most, it’s worth noting that price alone will not keep you in the game. Another respondent said, “Don’t sell me a part that doesn’t fit/perform. Adapt to my needs and improve online ordering. I don’t want to see repeat inventory issues over a period of months.”
More efficient parts delivery and
better online ordering were the two most popular requests this year. While there are several factors that can affect what is considered prompt service, there were a number of comments on the need to improve delivery time as well as the
quality of the delivery drivers. In addition, there were just as many requests for better online ordering systems, as more technicians discover the timesaving benefits of ordering parts using their smartphone.
Other advice on the level of service shops expect includes:
Be honest. S*** happens. When
you have a problem, it’s okay with
me. If I have a problem, it should be okay with you.”
“Stay in contact; the personal touch is very important. It’s good to know you’re wanted as a customer.”
“Above all, be honest. If there is a problem with a particular part/line, let us know and keep us informed as to how it’s being dealt with. Too often I hear that I’m the only person that has a problem with a particular line, only to talk to other shops and discover they also have the same issues.”
“My favourite jobber has links with other jobbers, and if he doesn’t stock the part, he’ll get it from his friends.
Now that’s good service!”
This is the fourth year of our dealer purchase question, and it continues to show a steady increase in the amount of parts purchased from dealers. Dealers are clearly making efforts to be more competitive on parts sales. Some 10% of repair shops say they purchase at least 31.95% of their parts from dealers. This is up significantly compared to 23.19% last year.
The main reason shops are doing this brings us back to the core value they are looking for: parts availability. When their preferred jobber, or the aftermarket at large, cannot supply a part – yes, there were also issues of price and quality mentioned – they will go elsewhere.
While many respondents reported improved aftermarket availability, some shops are talking about pricing differences and the availability of late-model applications, and many are concerned about the capability of the aftermarket to supply electronics going forward.
Their comments included:
Fuel, air metering, and ignition
parts are horrible from the
aftermarket. As an example, if we do put an aftermarket crank sensor on a vehicle, we usually have to replace it under warranty two times, then realize we need to just put on the dealer part.”
“Better quality parts equal fewer comebacks.”
“Some newer car parts are not available from the jobber.”
“Dealerships respect the trade discount fairly evenly and are competitive.”
“We do a lot of body work so this may be out of the ordinary, but we find dealers are sometimes willing to price match off-shore suppliers for insurance claims.”
“The quality of aftermarket products seems to be going down. It’s time to find good ones going up. I’m becoming more hesitant to put aftermarket parts on a vehicle, since the percentage of them coming back keeps rising.”
“Our business is changing along with the parts we are selling, and the only place to purchase some of these parts is from the new car dealer.”
“Dealers are prepared to meet the prices of jobbers.”
“Jobbers do not have the parts available or even listed that are needed for some repairs. More often now, the dealer has a better price than the aftermarket. In some cases, the quality of the dealer part is superior to the aftermarket parts.”
“Proper fit and better quality
from the dealer means fewer
Online ordering is continuing to grow, as more shops discover the benefits of a faster turnaround time. Some 29.49% of respondents claim they now order 76-100% of their parts online. This is up from 25.4% last year. This reinforces the strong trend in online parts ordering that jobbers should be aware of. Having your website compatible with all communication devices is now becoming an issue, as more technicians become comfortable ordering parts from their smartphone while they are still looking at the vehicle. Jobbers that have not put much focus on this aspect of their business may want to revisit their approach to online sales, and improve on the usability of their website.
Along with convenience and time savings, respondents gave several interesting reasons for moving to online parts ordering.
I try to do everything online now.
It’s so much easier than sitting
on hold.”
“I would order more online if the sites were more user-friendly.”
“I look for a well set-up online ordering website, and knowledgeable and courteous staff assistance when needed.”
“Be fair and non-subjective with respect to pricing, and most of all, respect the trades, since they are the reason that the jobbers have an existing business. Less and less ‘home fix-it’ guys will be coming in every year. Jobbers better wake up and rebuild their relationships with licensed operations.”
“Stop selling substandard parts; listen to us when we tell you that. Stand by your warranties. We can’t compete when you are selling parts over the counter to walk-in customers at our cost or just a little over our cost.”
“Stop giving it away over the counter! I really get tired of some jobbers offering discounts to people that walk in the store and say they work somewhere. This industry needs some regulation, because I look like the ass trying to rip people
off when I’m charging my parts out at a
proper margin. I’m tired of having
to defend my actions because
some counter guy wants to be
buddies with everyone.”
Returns and warranty claims is another sore spot.
Handle returns promptly; and
warranties must be dealt with
immediately, as they cost a shop both money and customer confidence.”
“Getting the wrong parts shipped creates a lot of headaches; if you have a high return percentage, you have a problem.”
“Have people on the counter who can speak clearly and have a good fundamental understanding of parts and how to use their software.”
Finally, we asked respondents for advice on how jobbers can keep their customers happy.
“Maintain good pricing and warranty on your better, more reliable products. Have a good online catalogue and online ordering system. Make sure you maintain a quick and reliable parts delivery system and maintain a good stock of quality parts.”
“With the drop in the economy, some parts stores are discounting parts to DIYers and selling fewer parts to the shops. The shops that are able to hang on will remember who went over to the DIY side when the economy changed.”
“Get a counterperson without an attitude problem. It’s as if some
of them bring their problems to
work and take it out on the
This final comment sums it up. “We are your clients, just as the people whose cars we repair are our clients. The client comes FIRST.” nJN

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1 Comment » for From Bricks To Clicks: How Online Ordering Is Changing The Playing Field
  1. David says:

    I agree with buyers opinions. Rockauto ( got 2.5 out of 5 according to reviews platform. I read about slow shipping and parts that appeared to be incompatible with cars.

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