Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2005   by Auto Service World

Countertalk: A Cooperative Effort Called For /Electronic Cataloguing Must Improve

Counterperson Bill Hare of Brighton Automotive wrote to Jobber News Magazine to address the state of electronic cataloguing. He also copied a computer systems supplier, who responded to his concerns. With the permission of both parties, we have published their respective letters as this Point/Counterpoint.


A COOPERATIVE EFFORT CALLED FOR

From Marc Mayes,

Client Services,

Amador Business Computers

There is obviously a lot more to say about this than I can cover here, but ultimately, it is the responsibility of the manufacturers, the E-Cat developers/providers, the resellers, the warehouses and the jobbers to work together and push as hard as they can to ensure that end users have a catalogue that counterpeople are satisfied with.

We know that the catalogue is improving, since Amador has changed the process for reporting errors. Not as fast as we would like, but much faster than it was previously. Some jobbers have had various issues with the catalogue but most are generally satisfied with it and know that there is not much better out there in the marketplace for E-Cats. In fact, Amador has been and is always looking to improve the catalogue for its customers. There is certainly room for improvement in the E-Cat industry.

To improve the catalogue, it is necessary to make changes and improvements in procedures.

Amador’s idea of involving you, the end user, in the process of reporting errors was to ensure that the E-Cat provider could hear the issues firsthand without translation over and over again by Amador for every user that had an error to report, and to also eliminate any mistakes that may happen during the translation. Although Amador cannot physically change E-Cat providers’ data or control the releases and the corrections made within any specific release, what we can do is work with the E-Cat provider, requesting that they do make corrections and improve the process in which they manage their error list for future corrections by either themselves or manufactures.

If you, as the end user, state that they fix the errors you need corrected or you won’t use their e-catalogue, then they will probably fix them. It is much more effective to have 100 Bill Hares call the E-Cat provider with specific errors than one Amador employee calling over and over again until he is disregarded due to the frequency of his calls.

We know that ultimately it is the end user that has the most influence on not only the manufacturers but the E-Cat developer, and that your participation has so far helped immensely in the driving force to make the catalogue as good as it is thus far.

We also know that the catalogue isn’t yet perfect by any means, but let’s remember that the electronic catalogue (based on the AAIA standard) is relatively young in this industry and it does have a lot of room for improvement.

It is customers, like you, who force us to push forward to make the changes in procedures and in the way that we handle the data, keeping up with the manufacturers and their changes, the synchronization of data format to the AAIA standard, its delivery, and much more, that ultimately bring us together to make this catalogue the best that it can be.

One solution to improving E-Cat data is to ensure that all participants (including manufacturers and E-Cat providers) are aware of and adhere to the already agreed-to AAIA catalogue standard. The standards are the key to ensure that data is sent out quickly, accurately and cost-effectively to the counter staff. Along with the AAIA catalogue standard, the PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard) will allow counter staff to see additional information about the part number (e.g. diagrams, tech tips, etc.) that is stored on the manufacturer’s website.

In addition, the E-Cat industry, in this day and age of technology, has the ability to make changes quickly and efficiently to bring the industry up to an acceptable level where end users are even more satisfied with the electronic catalogue.

Want to add to the discussion on this or other matters? E-mail feedback to aross@jobbernews.com.

ELECTRONIC CATALOGUING MUST IMPROVE

From Bill Hare,

Brighton Automotive,

Brighton, Ontario

I want to make a declaration on the state of electronic cataloguing: I am not satisfied!

I believe that there are many other jobber counterpeople who are just as frustrated with 65% functioning ability of existing “E-Catalogues.” And what makes it even more frustrating is the “it isn’t our problem” attitude of manufacturers and electronic catalogue companies. Well, it sure as heck is my problem as a counterperson.

To be fair, I will try to look at the situation from other perspectives:

The manufacturer:

* Has always been saddled with enormous cost-producing paper catalogues and must continue to produce them until all its customers have converted to E-Cat, Internet or CD look up.

* Is asked to put its catalogue information into an AAIA Enhanced Format at its own expense to be submitted to electronic catalogue companies.

* Is putting the firm’s information into a display that looks just like its competitors and removing its individuality.

* Is charged a varying fee with most electronic catalogue companies to publish the company’s information.

* Is spending big money on getting its catalogue information onto its website and making CDs with the latest information, and feels this is where we want our customers to go for the best information.

* Is under the impression that once the firm’s information is passed to the E-Cats in the format asked for that it will be translated perfectly into a display for all E-Cat customers, so there is no reason to proofread it or even look at it because it is out of the company’s hands.

The electronic catalogue companies:

* Have to deal with a thousand-plus manufacturers (not just the hundred or so that we counterpeople do), who are all submitting information in varying degrees of quality for publishing.

* Do not have the manpower to proofread all the information coming through so they figure, let us get it out as fast as we can and let the counterpeople do the proofreading and report to us.

* Receive reported mistakes back from jobbers that they have to verify, then check with the manufacturer and wait for them to get back with the correction, and then correct the information for the next month’s update.

* With all this to do, they claim they don’t have time or the people to keep the original counterperson informed on the process.

The jobber counterperson:

* Works with the tools given him, and likes the speed and convenience of electronic cataloguing but doesn’t trust it completely, so he still needs paper catalogues to verify information, or goes to the website or the CD. All of this is time-consuming but necessary; it costs my customer and me money if I send out the wrong part.

* If the counterperson finds a mistake he will try to report it but it takes time and nothing happens for three or four months if at all, and during that time he has to remember the mistake because he can’t make a note on the catalogue page. It gets pretty disheartening, reporting mistakes and getting no feedback and seeing the same mistake come up month after month.

* Is waiting for the next e-catalogue release that will fix all of the problems the computer company has been having. That release will be out in a month or two (though it was scheduled for last September).

* These new releases need to have a graphic interface and links to manufacturer’s information on the Internet to be progressive and useful.

If anyone feels I have misrepresented them or has anything to add, I would certainly love to hear from them. I would also like to hear from anyone who gives a darn about electronic cataloguing.


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