Parts for Profit Part Eleven—Shop Counter Personnel
As I have said before, the back counter is the best place to train a future counterperson. The technician cannot be lost or driven off by unfortunate delays or errors. The car, the technician, all of the necessary information, is here. Advice and help are available at all times. Your regular back counter personnel can always use the extra hands and feet, and the heavy volume of orders provides the greatest experience in the least amount of time.
Your back counter (service sales) is the best profit center and the backbone of all parts department sales. A good parts operation contributes to increased service and sales. Customers who have their car repaired in a timely manner return for more service, and continue to purchase vehicles at your dealership. The most important thing for service sales is the proper inventory of expected parts. You must never be out of parts for regularly scheduled service. Set minimum amounts (e.g. two services) for all part numbers. Not having simple items such as spark plugs, filters, etc. will give your customer the worst possible impression of your department and dealership.
A separate fast-moving stock area must be next to your back counter. Not only for filters and fluids, your service special order section must also be here. A separate shelf, in view of your technicians, is used for all “car down” orders. The part is a constant reminder to get the car into the shop and finished.
The back counter is also the center for phasing in new numbers and adjusting on-hand quantities. Here is where you purchase parts from other dealers or more importantly, other parts suppliers, like NAPA and AUTO ZONE. If you have a regular monthly bill of over $1000 for your own car line, you are not managing your inventory properly. Independent part stores only carry the most popular parts, the same ones you should never be out of.
Every purchase of a part that has a factory number needs to be entered in your system. Instruct all of your countermen to use only factory numbers on purchase orders. When you do your daily review, enter all these numbers as lost sales. You should only have to do this two times before the number comes up on your suggested stock order. If you do not catch these missed sales, you will continue giving away profits that rightfully belong to you.
If your dealership includes a body shop, assign one person to handle all these orders. This position is mandatory training for a future wholesale counterperson. You must know how your best customer operates in order to work with him. Six months of dedicated involvement with a functioning body shop will give you the experience necessary to understand this customer’s point of view.
Remember, you are not just a parts warehouse. You are a partner in the auto repair business. Your people should know how their parts will be used. They should be aware of a technician’s primary needs, and which parts need to be available first. This attitude creates a bond between you and your customer that will benefit you both.
Larry Williams is a former parts manager and consultant with national awards and over 40 years of experience in creating profitable departments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.