How to Be a Great Customer for Your Suppliers
National Sales Manager, Parts Supplier Sales
Working with customers is a part of being a collision repairer. We also know that some customers are easier than others. But you’re a customer, too. The relationships you have with your suppliers are an important part of the repair process. And, to make sure it runs smoothly means making sure your suppliers love working with you.
Recently, I was talking to a friend who was frustrated with the process to refinance his mortgage and how long it took to close. He was taken aback when I asked him, “Is there anything you could have done to make the process easier?” He gave me a side-eye stare, but it opened a conversation about things he could have done differently.
Get it right the first time
From the start of the mortgage application process, my friend did not have his financial documents in order. Each time he had to track down and send additional paystubs or a W-2, it just delayed the final approval.
Ordering all the needed parts and having them delivered on time to start the repairs is critical for any collision repairer. But it’s also critical to your supplier. Yes, the supplier needs to be on top of their inventory and responsive, but you also need to blueprint and get a complete picture of what you need. Supplements are a part of our business but working to write a more complete estimate and parts order will limit the 4PM call on a Friday that a part was missed.
The original “electronic” parts ordering system
If I took my teenager into a typical parts department, they would have no idea what the electronic machine that made a phone sound and spat out paper was. I still see fax machines during my visits to suppliers, and not just as a paper weight. In 1987, faxing was the way of the future. It meant:
- Better tracking of orders
- More accurate orders as there were printed records
- People (on both sides) weren’t stuck talking on the phone
Now that we carry mini computers in our pockets and many processes are all online, we can once again take parts ordering into the future.
Get off the phone
I was talking to a dealer parts department manager recently who mentioned how the past 15 months highlighted the importance of being efficient. The less the phone rang, the more responsive they were to their customers.
It sounded counter-intuitive when he said it, until he explained that most of their calls had been from shops looking for part availability and pricing. By working with their shops to configure the supplier in CCC ONE where they could easily access that information, the number of calls was reduced. Now, team members for this supplier would be readily available when a repair facility customer needed help with a more complex order or involved question.
Establishing the digital connection with the supplier not only meant that the shop was able to self-serve routine parts orders quickly by placing them electronically, but it also meant a huge time savings for the parts supplier too.
Not all returns are equal
Parts returns happen – there’s no two ways about it. But there are steps you can take to minimize the impact both to you and to your supplier.
When a parts shipment arrives, mirror match the components to ensure that the correct part was ordered (and received) before the repair begins. If you do get the wrong part, let the supplier know WHY it’s being returned. Collision repairers using CCC’s Repair Workflow shop management system can easily configure parts returns to provide additional detail beyond just “Not Needed.” Looking for a bonus point? Make sure the part is in the original packaging. Suppliers love that!
We can all be better customers
For many of us (myself included), when we’re the customer we want to feel that “the customer is always right.” But sometimes we need to look at what WE can do to help things go more smoothly.
Over the next couple of days when you find yourself in the position of a being customer, ask the other party if there was anything else you could have done to make their job easier. Get ready for some awkward silence and strange stares! But trust me, your business partners will provide some great insight into being the best customer.