Parts for Profit Part Twelve—Retail Counter Personnel

After learning on the back counter; transfer your trainees to the front counter. By now they should be able to find the most common parts, and understand the repair procedures used in mechanical and body repair. At the front counter they will learn how to take care of a new kind of customer…the kind that can be extremely frustrating to serve.


The typical front counter (walk-in) customer is an amateur mechanic, who may or may not know the correct terminology of the part, or parts, that he needs. A trainee will learn to use illustrations, locations, and descriptions to determine the required parts. These customers need more time per sale than any other. Patience is the primary requirement for this position. Other walk-in customers will be your local wholesale accounts picking up orders.


This position, along with your parts driver, is the “face” of your dealership. The first few seconds of your customer’s experience determines all of his future purchases. A smile, with a pleasant greeting, helps set the stage for future sales. An attitude of being interrupted, however, is unfortunately a common occurrence in many businesses. If you happen to notice this attitude, shift your employee to the back counter, where his frustration will do less harm. Technicians know how to deal with this, and may help you save the employee.


At the front counter the manager will also learn if the trainee is a salesman or an “order taker.” Most of your employees will simply take orders. There are very few “natural” salesmen found in parts departments. Cultivate these people when you find them. This is the type of personality you want on the front counter, and later, on wholesale telephones. Special traits to look for are friendliness, extra consideration, eagerness, keen sense of enthusiasm, and the desire to help. All of these characteristics are required to understand difficult customers, and again, patience! You are looking for someone who likes to solve other people’s problems. This employee will have ideas that encourage sales—by changing displays, promoting accessories, and looking for extra opportunities which promote growth. In other words, this is an “A-type” personality. This employee responds best to positive feedback, self-management, and performance rewards, and is one of your best profit-producing assets.


Let this person be the one who takes the overflow of your telephone business. He takes the calls from your main telephone number, not your direct wholesale lines. This process allows gradual entry into telephone sales. Some time must be spent in this capacity in order to gain the experience necessary for the most difficult position: the voice of your dealership.


Retail Counter Duties:


1.       Keep work area neat and clean.


2.       Maintain a professional image.


3.       Maintain a professional attitude.


4.       Greet every customer as soon as possible.


Maintain the sale—When parts are out of stock, check nearby sources, then special order.


5.       Call customers when special orders arrive.


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




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