Passing on blame for parts problems to suppliers

Jan. 1, 2020
The vast majority of aftermarket supplier’s websites are painfully silent when it comes to ways to look up their products. Often a search for “catalog” leads to another site altogether.  

Have you read the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand? It doesn’t matter if you agree with her politics, she had amazing foresight into how the world of the future would work back in 1947.

One of the sub plots of the story was that many suppliers were failing to fulfill orders and blaming it on the suppliers that they counted on.  If you sense a corollary coming, you are right. I have written about the manufacturer websites that have email addresses that are completely unmonitored by employees but from where I sit there are much larger issues brewing. Issues I hope the eerily accurate Ms. Rand does not get right.

Let’s start with catalogs because that is really where my first contact with most of my suppliers begins. The vast majority of aftermarket supplier’s websites are painfully silent when it comes to ways to look up their products. Often a search for “catalog” leads me to another site altogether.  

Then we have the situation where I do find a catalog, I download it because it is not something I can look at on the website and I find a part that will replace the damaged or worn out piece on my customer’s vehicle. Now comes the fun part. I buy it, pay more for shipping than the part costs and wait for it to get out the door and onto a truck.

The part shows up and it is not correct for the application. When I call suggesting that a footnote that lets me know that this part will not fit all of the vehicles it claims to fit the response is that catalog development is done by an outside vendor and there is no way to let them know about the application error.

Now we move on to phone support. Why do paying customers ever have to wait for someone to help them spend money? I have spent, in the last few days, at least 40 minutes on order lines attempting to get information to make a purchase.

Look, I recognize that competent technical people can be hard to find. Apparently finding people who know when to say they don’t know is even harder. I had one customer call a performance company’s tech line three different times and get three completely different answers, all of which turned out to be wrong and frankly poor advice. Have you ever been put on hold at your own company? Do you like it? Change it.

How about this: have enough people to answer your phones or be able to return voice mails quickly. Be willing to tell DIY customers who are way over their head that they need professional help or offer a professional support line staffed with guys who are at least as smart about your products as I am about the vehicles I work on.

When I am on hold and the electronic voice tells me there is one call in front of me and that call lasts 15 minutes your telephone room is dealing with someone who is not competent enough to use your product. You would be money ahead to take that product back, refund the sale and help the guys who do know what they are doing or refer them to someone who does.

Proper scripting of phone calls can help your people to terminate these types of calls or delay them until there is a lower phone load.

Great wholesale businesses are not really built one customer at a time. They are built many customers at a time. Many of those customers think they are the only one.

The last thing in my rant is outside salespeople. I know these are major expenses to you. Many of them seem to have the idea that their job is to sell me something that has no relevance in my business rather than to provide support and sales of the things I need.

I get it, you guys bought a whole bunch of impact wrenches. Your salesman walks into my business staffed with journeyman technicians with an inexpensive impact wrench and all of them tune him out. I chase that same salesman around for weeks with my wallet open, hundred dollar bills flying out, trying to buy a piece of equipment that you do not have on sale. My call is finally returned but it is someone else’s (read that supplier) fault that I cannot get what I want. My wallet closes.

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