The Mississauga West branch of Motorcade Industries works from a formula that starts in the company's head office in North York, Ont.: Take care of the customer!
By Adam Malik
At the end of the day, it’s all about your customer.
Drew Currie, manager of Motorcade Industries’ Mississauga West branch, says what’s a jobber for if not to help make repair shop businesses better, meet customer needs and do whatever it takes to make their lives easier.
That’s the attitude he takes into work each day. And it’s the attitude that earned his branch the title of 2019 Jobber of the Year.
“It’s all about customer service. If you don’t have that, you might as well close the doors,” he said. “Everything else can be in place and you can have the best inventory, but if you don’t have customer service, you have nothing. That’s what you build everything off of.”
When a challenge seems too tough, Currie turns to one simple philosophy: Put the needs of the customer first. Then adapt from there.
It’s a formula that starts in Motorcade’s head office in North York, Ont., and trickles down to nine locations in the Greater Toronto Area, and the stores in Windsor, Ont. and St. Catharines, Ont.
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“We try to deal with the customer first and then we work out the rest of it later,” said Joel Klein, general sales manager.
It’s not always easy. Customers are demanding. They ask for things that may seem unreasonable. Shops want faster delivery times. They want better pricing. They demand more buying options. The list doesn’t ever get smaller.
Currie, who has spent nine years with Motorcade, takes it all in stride. Each repair shop faces its own challenges, so he ensures his branch is flexible enough to meet every customer request.
“Some people need five-minute deliveries. Some people schedule their day so that within 20 minutes is OK,” he said. “Every customer is so different now. You can’t have one philosophy for everybody. You have to be everything for everyone.”
And it’s not about offering the lowest price. When a shop calls Motorcade, they’re getting service and selection – at a reasonable price.
“We certainly listen. We’ll bring in additional product. We’ll make changes. There’s so much more that’s important, I believe, to an installer than just the price,” said Dave Chamberlain, in charge of Mississauga West outside sales.
“And once you understand why they want something changed, then you can go forward and put the pieces in place,” Currie added.
Motorcade vice president Niall Black isn’t surprised by the success at the Mississauga West location.
“They’re looking after the customer, listening to the customer and servicing the customer well,” he said. “They’re just good people.”
“Anybody can open a store and put inventory in it. But it’s the people that make the difference,” he said. “So we spend a lot of time investing in our own people.”
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For example, everyone in the branch is trained to serve in any area of the business. Counter staff can also dispatch and pick orders.
“We’ve trained them from start to finish, basically. It makes a big difference. They understand what it takes to get that part to the customer,” said Currie.
He doesn’t even have an office in the crowded branch but that suits him just fine. It leaves him ready to lend a hand wherever it’s needed.
“I answer phones; I just don’t sit and do paperwork. I’m very hands on and that’s how I want the staff to be,” he said.
Cross-training is designed to minimize disruption in case one of the four counterpersons or someone in the warehouse calls in sick. The idea is that customers won’t even notice if the branch is short-staffed.
The ‘people component’ is a major selling point to Carlo Sabucco, owner of Sil’s Complete Auto Care Centre in Oakville.
“The relationship side is the primary reason we deal with them,” he said. “They give a good experience. They have some key people there on the counter who see the big picture. When we order parts and stuff like that, they’re thinking ahead, going, ‘OK, well, you could have this situation, you could have that.’”
Chamberland and Currie wants staff to consider each other family as much as they do teammates.
“I think it’s important that everybody gets along, everybody understands why they’re here in the morning and they do their very best to make sure that we give the customer the best experience they can have from the incoming phone call right to the delivery,” Chamberlain said.
“You don’t want to disappoint anybody. You don’t want to disappoint your customers,” Currie added.
Sabucco says that attitude is clear. Everyone from the counter staff to the drivers is polite and professional, he said.
He said Chamberlain has been especially helpful to him.
“Dave takes the time to sit down with me, see what my stresses are in the business, see where my problems,” he said, noting that his issues – whether it’s cores, warranties, credits or anything else – are then communicated back to head office where they try to figure out the right solutions.
“They’re trying really hard to listen to the customer, which is me,” he added. “It’s not just a dollar-and-cents, buying parts game where ‘the more you buy, the better we are with you.’”
Motorcade as a whole wants also wants close relationships with its shop customers. With a great amount of trust on both sides, it creates the opportunity for open and honest feedback that allows the company to be better.
“We have to listen because it’s the right thing to do and if we don’t, there are multiple competitors who are waiting at the door who would love the opportunity to get that business. We truly believe it’s a partnership,” Black said.
“We want to be their number one call and it’s up to us to listen to them and encompass their needs and deal with it as best we can,” Chamberlain said. “I think that’s what separates a real good jobber from someone who just sells parts.”
It comes down to communication. Meet with customers, listen to what they have to say and respond in a manner that helps their business.
The Mississauga West location ensures its customers are satisfied by having the right part delivered at the right time. Once an order is picked, Currie wants it out the door in five minutes. He also ensures his staff provides realistic expectations.
“You try to not let customers down. What you promise, that’s what you want to deliver on,” Currie said. “If it’s going to be an hour, tell the customer it’s going to be an hour. Don’t say a half hour. Don’t overpromise.”
Currie credits head office support in things like marketing and purchasing as a big reason for his branch’s success.
“Their support allows me to answer the phones and basically have a pulse on what the customers are doing day to day. I think that’s the biggest help I get out of it,” he said.
“All of these responsibilities would fall on the store manager otherwise,” Chamberlain said. “There are only so many tasks that one person can embrace before they become inefficient. And if your leader is inefficient, then the rest of the staff become inefficient as well.”
On the other side, Klein and Black praise the way the branch helps all of Motorcade’s other stores. Whenever a customer calls the company, they’re connected to the call centre at head office. But if all the lines are full, calls are then redirected to the branch – it’s the only location in the GTA that has a traditional call centre and counter staff. So while a counterperson can answer a call from a local customer, the next person he speaks to could be someone from, say, Windsor.
“They’re also helping support the other stores because they’re taking those phone calls,” Klein said. “Initially our customers who would be rolled over into the call centre would be a little apprehensive because everybody likes to deal with people you know. In this case, over time, everybody seemed to lock in.”
It all comes back to taking on that family mentality, Black said. “It provides flexibility. We have consistency and continuity, and support mechanisms for each other.”
Being part of a network of corporately-owned stores means branches can lean on each other to see what ideas have worked and what failed.
“The nice thing is, they have a number of stores, so they might throw out ‘Oh, this worked at Windsor,’ so they have the advantage of different marketplaces running all at the same time so they can lead you down the path that way, which is just helpful,” Currie said.
No business is without its challenges. Currie worries about how to stock all the parts that are out there. Staffing is another big challenge. There isn’t a jobber not worrying about those things.
When it comes to finding people, the Mississauga West branch seems to have finally seen some stability. After years of trying to fit pieces in place, the store is happy with its current complement.
“I’m extremely confident in going out and moving forward in this industry with the people that are here,” Chamberlain said. “I think the right stuff has been a real challenge for this industry.”
It’s a combination of things going right and making people want to be part of the company. Currie wants his people to know that they are valued in his store and that he’s always looking for ways to help them move up.
“The way I look at it, if you do a good job, I want to make sure you’re aware that there’s a better position down the road if you have a good work ethic,” Currie said. “And that’s what it’s about: it’s work ethic. If you don’t have a work ethic, you can be the smartest person on the planet and it’s no good.”
It’s an ethos that exists at head office as well.
“There’s no magic formula,” Black said. “It’s just hard work.”
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