Supplier vs. Partner

Two simple actions you can take now to boost your ROI and virtually eliminate returns and comebacks.

As we begin the year, it’s a perfect time to talk about this issue’s service readiness topic: parts!

Most of you know I work for the largest automotive aftermarket parts supplier in North America, so you’re probably thinking I’ll be biased and what I write won’t have value. But please read on. I think you’ll find some of the most valuable advice you’ll get out of this series of articles.

I’ve taken off my CARQUEST Technical Institute hat and put on the shop owner/manager hat I’ve worn for much of my 42-year career. So here we go.

I want to share two tips that will help ensure you’re service ready for your customers every time. First, let’s start with building a partnership with your supplier. If you’re still buying parts based on price while praying for quality, then stop. That model is simply a plan to fail.

If your parts supplier representative hasn’t already reached out to you to discuss your 2016 plans, then you need to reach out to them and schedule a meeting. When you meet, seek their participation in your business as a partner. What does that mean?

Share with them your strategic plans for the year and ask for their support with service levels, programs and promotions that will fuel these plans. Invite them to participate in internal meetings with your business partners and employees. Also, request a regular series of meetings to discuss the status of your plans and work together to bridge gaps that might exist. The meeting agenda should focus on your strategic plans and how the programs and promotions you have implemented as partners are working. Don’t get bogged down in tactical issues. Focus on strategy and solutions.

Second, let’s talk about ordering parts for your customers. The first thing to understand is who sets the standards of performance for your company. The answer is you, the shop owner. You must establish the standards for your team to follow to meet your goals. Next you must understand who sets the standards of quality for your company. The answer is your customers. They will vote with feedback, or lack thereof, as the result of the work you performed.

If you choose poor quality parts or select them based on price, then you’re not service ready when it comes to meeting the standard of quality your customers expect. To meet this standard, you must plan ahead. In this industry, parts providers offer all their product options to you unless you ask them to be filtered based on your preferences – or based on price if no filter is used. Many systems are not able to filter product to only offer what you want your team to order, but you can work with your parts partner to

• first, understand your quality options.
• then, train your team to only order the level of quality or product you have prescribed for your customers.

This element of service readiness will yield the best return on investment compared with any element we’ve discussed. It will all but eliminate returns and comebacks. Your margin dollars will increase without having to do anything else. And you’ll have a partner who will support you in growing your business and your success.