Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2015   by Steve Pawlett

Online Ordering Is On The Rise

Insights From Our 4th Annual Shop Survey

With the recession of 2008 now a distant memory and auto sales growing at a relatively healthy rate, jobbers can let out a sigh of relief and look towards a bright future of steady sales and expanding SKUs once again. But a successful jobber’s business growth is not only based on current economic conditions; to remain that first-call jobber, customer service must be front and centre of every business transaction.
According to our 4th annual shop survey, repair shop expectations for parts availability, delivery, and product knowledge are must-have attributes. When it comes to dealing with a first-call jobber, the key factors repair shops look for are parts availability; a superior working relationship with the jobber; qualified, reliable counter staff; and fast, efficient delivery service.
What came through in this year’s survey was that parts availability is still the number-one factor in their decision. The second key factor affecting shop owners’ choice of a first-call jobber was their relationship with the jobber. However you deal with your customers when there is a problem – whether it be a defective part, a warranty issue, or a part availability issue – the way you address it and resolve it is vitally important, according to the responses we received.
Surprisingly, your online ordering capability has risen to number three and “brands sold,” which was number three last year, dropped down to number five in importance. Online ordering is now a key factor, as it can save repair shop staff crucial time and allow technicians to be more efficient and productive.
As one respondent put it, “Quality parts, online ordering, parts availability, and timely delivery are the most important aspects for us.” This may not be a huge revelation; however, it’s clear that the convenience and speed of online ordering are now a significant factor for many shops. Another respondent said, “We install 90% of the best parts we can get, so price is not that important; parts availability and fast delivery is important.”
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 counter staff. As another respondent put it, “I can’t deal with grumpy counterpeople, and I do need some wiggle room on pricing.”
Not surprisingly, “relationship” still remains the second most significant factor for shops. As these respondents put it:
“Go the extra mile when I need help to get parts; don’t just say that’s all I can do.”
“Offer prompt payment discounts and notify us of upcoming promotions.”
“Hire knowledgeable counter staff. I can’t stand dealing with getting the wrong parts.”
This third year of our dealer purchase question shows a slight increase in dealer purchases. Some 36.23% now buy 5% of their parts from dealers compared to 31.2% last year, while those shops that buy 10% of their parts from dealers dipped slightly to 23.19%, down from 25.6% last year. Shops that purchase 15% of their parts from dealers also increased slightly to 12.56% from 12.1% last year. In addition, another 11.59% said they purchase 20% of their parts from dealers.
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 would go elsewhere.
While most 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:
“Many parts are not available from the aftermarket, especially high-tech, electronic parts.”
“Be honest, everyone can make a mistake, but it’s how this mistake gets corrected. Don’t keep sending defective returns back out. What a waste of everyone’s time!”
“Allow the counter staff to give warranty to their customers as they see fit. Help with labour claims at a more realistic dollar value. Provide rebates according to purchases on all products.”
“Don’t lie if you don’t know. Find out and then return phone calls right away, not five hours later when you search for the part and it’s not in stock.”
“Be honest about pricing, availability, and retail values. Stock high-quality parts and offer outstanding warranty coverage for the products. Be a value-added location and offer support for growing service outlets. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you will, and show up with the promised parts, service, and support.”
“We are looking for support from the jobber to build a relationship and know that they have got our back.”
“Be honest if you are having trouble with parts suppliers in terms of quality or high failure rates. We will always support you, but we need to know if there’s a problem. Maybe we can help identify problems.”
“Make the warranty process as easy as possible. Have a huge inventory. At the national level all parts should be available overnight. Prompt deliveries and competent counter staff.”
“Get the parts right the first time. Have the parts in stock; use the percentage of vehicles in the area to stock with, rather than stocking after four sales of the same item.”
“Check on your prices. Make sure that your prices are cheaper than the dealer because today the customers do check on prices from the dealer, and if they find the same part cheaper at a dealer, it may well be the last time you see them.”
Several respondents complained about the quality of some aftermarket parts and the fact that the prices of some aftermarket parts are creeping closer and to and even higher than the price of the OEM part.
“It has been noticed that some parts don’t fit. Rebuilt parts (injectors) have problems and some parts are a higher cost than the dealer. Mass air flow sensors we get from the dealer because the ones from the jobber have too many problems and are often outdated,” explains Mel Kause of Mewassin Automotive.
Another respondent complains, “We need better quality and fit and better availability. I’m getting really tired of poor-quality offshore parts.”
Another said, “Parts are either not available or of inferior quality so we have to go to the dealer.”
Jobbers need to watch these issues closely to ensure that customer confidence in their ability to deliver the right parts remains high.
Given the accelerated pace of business these days, we started looking into the number of shops ordering online last year. Comparing this year’s response to last year’s baseline, we can now see some significant developments. The number of repair shops that now order 75 to 100% of their parts online increased from 25.4% to almost 34%. This is indeed a significant indicator of the need for jobbers to have a comprehensive online presence.
The number of shops that order 51 to 75% of their parts online also increased slightly, going from 21 to 22%, while the shops that order 25% or less of their parts online dropped slightly from 41% to 38%.
When asked what advice they had for jobbers, shop owners didn’t hold back:
“Price isn’t everything. Fair pricing is okay. Quality and reducing comebacks by using better quality parts are important. Available product lines and inventory are a must.”
“Sell retail customers at retail, and have a meeting with installers and program members every second month or quarterly for updates and feedback. Make them informative and fa
cilitated so they are not just a bitch session. Note for example the changes in batteries that are coming, [as well as] electronics, cooling systems, oil, and filters. Provide training for everyone on online systems and warranties and share with each other the costs for not planning a job properly and the cost of returns and wrong parts. Use the five Ws – Who, What, When, Where, and Why – this will always give you the Concern, Cause, and the Correction,” says Mel Kause of Mewassin Automotive.
“Understand your client. Just because most shops deal on price, there are others who are looking for that jobber that ‘gets it’ and is ready to invest in a relationship.”
“If you trust the garage that you sell parts to, give them the benefit of the doubt where warranty is concerned, and always give the garage a much better price than the public!”
“Don’t promise when you can’t deliver. Don’t sell to the guy off the street at the same price you sell to me.”
“Be able to back the products you sell. Lately some duck responsibility for quality issues. Within the last year I have submitted more labour claims for defective products than in the last five years. They should have counter staff that can make business decisions rather than pass it off to a sales rep that can be difficult to reach.”
“If you are new on the counter, don’t hesitate to let customers know (just don’t be saying it a year later). If you’re not sure about warranty or if it isn’t the part the customer is looking for, ask a question or send a pic through fax, email, or text. Time is money and maybe a customer. And if you don’t like your job, either pretend you do or quit.”
“Make sure the right part is in the right box and it is shipped on time.”
We also asked repair shops for the reasons they had switched jobbers. Here’s just a sample of what they had to say:
“About eight to nine years ago, we switched due to a loss of trust. Credits were not processed and then we found out that the store manager had said to put the returns in the corner in the basement because he figured we would eventually forget about them. We didn’t forget due to our return tracking process for both cores and new returns.”
“You could walk up to the counter and buy the part for the same price or cheaper than I could if certain people waited on you.”
“We switched for better support and a consistent rebate program.”
“Poor delivery time and receiving parts that were previously sent back to the jobber as defective, either by us or another shop.”
“The jobber changed a long-term agreement without telling me.”
“Better overall service from my new supplier. Better rebate program.”
“I have used the same company (Silver Automotive) for 40 years. They consistently go out of their way to offer us every reasonable business advantage and make our operation profitable. Silver partners with Uni-select who offer outstanding national warranty coverage and stand behind all of the products they sell. They inventory parts from trusted quality manufacturers, which helps us avoid unrealistic warranty returns due to parts failure and deliver parts to us in an extremely timely fashion. The owner is genuinely interested in our success and was even when we weren’t one of their top purchasers.”
“Level of service, both personal and the availability of an online catalogue and ordering service stock.”
“No online stock.”
“The jobber I switched to helped me out in difficult times.”
“A change of ownership resulted in loss of long-term employees and a push to sell cheaper parts.”
“I was disappointed in service on multiple occasions, poor response to failed service.”
“There was a serious lack of knowledge of counter staff, a lack of staff, and poor quality of available products.”
“The old jobber looked for reasons not to honour warranty, plus they gave garage discount to nearly everyone.”
With a robust economy, a growing car park, and expanding SKUs, by taking heed of your customers’ needs and offering top-notch customer service and support, you have the formula for continued success as a first-call jobber.

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