Some things aren’t funny, they’re just freakin’ wrong.
While working in a northeastern dealer’s service manager’s office, located next to the tech parts counter, I had the opportunity to listen to all the conversations between the techs and the counter personnel for several days. As you can imagine, I heard every type of useless chatter you can imagine, from “We might have that, then again we might not — wanna guess?” to “I will try to get that for you if you are really nice and bring me a Diet Coke.”
The two now “former”counter persons thought it was uniquely clever to contribute an ongoing hard time to the techs through their witty assertions, which did nothing but antagonize the entire brood of sweaty flat raters. I guess things have changed since my day, but meeting them out back immediately after work would have been my preference after a day of their BS.
What happened to Kimosabe?
This revealing experience got me thinking about the accomplished and professional counter personnel I have had the pleasure to work with, especially in the aftermarket at my restoration shop and Nissan/Chrysler dealerships. Professional parts counter people should be a commanding extension of a technician’s efforts, providing important information the tech may not know or hasn’t considered while tussling in the heat of pressure-filled flat rate accomplishment.
In the aforementioned environment, these clowns apparently thought their only job was to hoof it through the bins retrieving items for their captive audience, then to entertain them with triviality. I wondered how many flat rate dollars they negatively influenced each day, either by causing techs to wait, or just generally making them irritated and non-productive.
Here are some vital contributions a real parts-pro makes to a shop:
1. Contribution: When I call my parts pro, he not only accepts my order, he coaches me on the related items and information I might need. An example is when I request brake pads, he makes sure to remind me of hoses, rotors, and brake fluid — and that there are ceramic and heavy duty pads available based on this application. The economy pads aren’t the best choice if the customer is keeping the car and the warranty is double on the upgraded pads for only $14 additional. How would I know this otherwise?
2. Availability: There is so much more to know than just the immediate availability. If the selected item isn’t there now, what are the alternatives? Can it be gotten shortly elsewhere — where and when? If a special order, how, when — is there a substitution? What will work from a different model?
3. Quality: Experience with other customer or internal tech results should be collected by the counter person. What have others experienced?What had been the feedback? A parts pro wants to know this, but an ongoing amateur is more interested in the latest funny he or she can conjure. This attitude also automatically solicits feedback from the buyers (techs), who provide invaluable reactions to the parts and their successful application.
4. Attitude: It is very apparent when a parts counter person is not functioning as a team member with the same goal (fix the vehicle right the first time) as the tech. Obviously some parts counter people are not paid on volume, or they just don’t get the fact that when a tech is not producing in a stall, parts aren’t being sold. Wasted time dealing with parts is non-productive from both the flat rate and the parts sales perspective. In some cases, the parts manager doesn’t get it, or he or she just hasn’t made the point that parts are not sold till flat rate is produced, and flat rate isn’t being produced when tech are being hassled.
5. Timely delivery: It always amazed me that some dealer parts managers and counter personnel find it impossible to deliver parts 30 feet to tech stalls for retail price, while the aftermarket is delivering them within 30 minutes, three miles, for cost plus 25% and happy to do it. Keeping techs productive is where the money is made for parts and labor — the more labor dollars the more parts dollars, not vice versa. Any strategy that keeps techs in their stalls and happy, is a winner for everyone — and I mean parts, the tech, the customer, and the dealership — consequently the opposite is true. Duh!
6. Interest: No one knows it all (OK, maybe some). A real parts pro is as interested in getting the customer’s job done right as the tech and advisor. That may include going out to the job and checking number applications, and being sure numbers haven’t been superseded and that all options have been examined. Or, they may even print a parts blow-up picture, ensuring that the customer is getting “exactly” what the vehicle needs — whatta concept. I’m just not seeing that on the dealership level near enough, while I see it all the time in the aftermarket. Why?
A tech’s time is typically worth around $3 a minute (yes, minute) in parts and labor sales. Just to make the point for yourself and the team, I have constructed a nifty spreadsheet you may use to calculate exactly what your techs’ minute is worth in parts and labor sales. If you want a copy just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put on the subject line “Tech Worth — Yeah Baby.”