Service is a word that we hear a lot in our lives.
“Service is our No. 1 priority”; “Our service is second to none”; “Service with a smile.”
These are all phrases that we’re familiar with. Service is the cornerstone of the parts business, and with each American manufacturing job we ship overseas, it has become the nature of our economy as well. You would think that something that has become such an integral part of our lives would be easy to define.
However, the nature of good service is changing right along with our economy.
We tend to take a lot of things for granted in our lives simply because we get into routines and just don’t notice anymore. The waitress who knows just how you like your coffee and brings it to you without you asking is a good example. Go to a different diner with a different waitress, and you’ll probably still get your coffee the way you like it, but you’ll have to ask for it and wait while it’s being served.
The way we buy our gas is another example. It used to be that gas was purchased at a “service station,” where you not only had your gas pumped for you, but the attendant cleaned your windshield and offered to check your oil as well.
You could debate the merits of the service you received, but at least the effort was made. Now, most gas is bought at convenience store locations, where you get to pump your own fuel and clean your own windshield. In this situation, the only way you can complain about bad service is if the store clerk either ignores you or miscounts your change.
It seems like the only real convenience is that the store doesn’t have to pay a pump jockey. They also get an opportunity to sell you a lot of other stuff that’s prominently displayed on the way to the checkout counter.
The aftermarket is no more immune to these changes than any other industry, and I can’t see it going to the extremes that the retail gas business has, but real success comes from not losing sight of where we came from.
On the occasions that I’ve gone into other parts stores, the amount of merchandise on display always impresses me. The location I work in has very little display area in front of the counter and not enough behind it to change the layout.
It’s really an advantage because customer contact begins the minute anyone enters the store. What we lose in impulse selling opportunity we have to make up for in personalized suggestive selling, just like the gas station attendant used to do by offering to check under your hood.
I’ve walked into some of the larger chain stores, wandered the aisles, found what I wanted and paid for it without ever being acknowledged by anyone.
Professional installer customers are also being given the option of providing more service for themselves in the name of convenience. Having installer customers tied into our computers and placing electronic orders makes it easier on both ends, but I’m surprised at the number of customers who have the option and don’t use it.
I still get calls for simple price and availability quotes that could be done online. I like to think that it’s the personal insights you get dealing with a trusted professional rather than words and numbers on a screen.
Like the waitress who brings your coffee when you enter the diner, being attentive to your customers’ needs is still the best way to service them and reap the highest rewards.