Developing Your Best Special-Order Parts Process – Part 2

This is Part 2 in a three-part article. View Part 1 | View Part 3

Another of the more traditional methods to handle the special-order parts process is to have the customer contacted by an employee in the parts department. The initial ordering process is very similar to the service advisor contact technique. After the order is placed the service advisor contacts the customer to notify them that a part is being placed on order. As in the prior technique this notification takes place when the service advisor contacts the customer upon job completion and again at the time of pick up. It is still suggested that the customer copy be stamped or a sticker affixed to indicate to the customer that a part has been ordered.

As with the previous technique the parts department notifies the service advisor responsible for the order when the part arrives. Again, the standard 4- to 5-part special order form may be utilized. A copy would go directly to the service advisor. The computerized form may also be utilized in this method if the computer is being used as part of the special-order part system. A print out of the screen using a slave printer or the generation of a report by advisor can be used. Access must be given to this special-order parts screen to the service advisors.

The customer notification process differs from the others previously reviewed. Upon part arrival someone from the parts department will be charged with the task of notifying the customer. Again, the preferred method is a personal phone call to a daytime phone number for the customer. A text message or E-Mail address may also be used. If an answering machine is reached during a daytime phone call a post card should be mailed as a back up. It would be wise to send a post card whether someone has been contacted or not.

The parts department has the part or parts in their inventory and will try to get the customer back to the dealership to get them off the shelf. If cooperation between parts and service is strained the parts manager will ensure that customer notification is done. The parts department will get the contact made to avert sending the parts back within 30 days if the manufacturer offers a return program, adding to idle inventory, or using earned obsolescence credit to return the part. The liability of using this process includes a shortcoming in customer communications. If a customer is contacted by phone the first request to follow is for an appointment time. This will usually result in the parts department transferring a call to the service department. Another transfer may be necessary to the appropriate service advisor, because the service advisor may be assisting others or not be available, or the phone may not be picked up in the appropriate time. If the parts department is bearing the responsibility of customer notification there is the probability the service advisors aren’t doing an adequate job of letting them know the parts on order. The service advisor originated the transaction with a repair order and it is only logical to assume that’s where it should end. There can be a lower standard of customer satisfaction.

There is also a non-traditional process being adopted for completing the special-order parts cycle, part installation at the customer’s home or office. This is a growing trend throughout the country. Instead of having the customer come to the dealership for installation the service department goes to them. This technique can result in higher levels of customer satisfaction and at the same time help to reduce return visits to the service department by the customers requiring additional parts installation.

One of two appointment process options require the service department to schedule mobile installation after receiving the part. Upon receipt of the special ordered part or parts it will be necessary for the service advisor to contact the customer and secure specific information from the customer. The date and time of the appointment must be set with a number of factors in mind. The location of the car at the time of the appointment is obviously of prime importance as well as the location of the keys for use by the mobile technician. We must also verify the phone numbers for both the day prior to the appointment and the day of the appointment for effective communication with the customer. The appointment is scheduled on the mobile service scheduling system. Prior to the visit the part is inspected to ensure accuracy of ordering and quality. The customer is then contacted the day prior to the appointment to confirm all arrangements for installation. On the day of the appointment the customer is contacted before departure from the dealership. Communication is essential to avoid unnecessary delay or even cancellation after the mobile unit arrives at the agreed upon location. Policy and procedure guidelines for warranty replacement parts must be adhered to as outlined by appropriate documents or manuals. After completion of the installation the mobile technician must acquire the customer’s signature on the repair order and return it along with the defective part. Warranty repairs require no reimbursement by the customer; however, any customer-paid transactions should be prepaid prior to installation of the part. This may be done either by having the customer pay for the entire repair prior to leaving the dealership upon ordering or acquiring a credit card number and billing the repair upon return from installation.

The other appointment option is the pre-scheduling of the installation prior to the customer’s departure from the initial vehicle pick-up. All of the steps above such as the acquiring of all necessary information, communication steps preceding the actual installation, and the following of all applicable policies and procedures should be followed. The obvious variation is that the appointment is set prior to departure of the customer when the order is generated so that no call is necessary upon receipt of the parts. The parts department is responsible to schedule the mobile service vehicle the day of installation based on the information concerning the appointment indicated on the special-order form. Contacting the customer the day prior and the day of the appointment can become the responsibility of the service advisor that initiated the transaction or a designated parts employee responsible for coordinating the mobile vehicle service.

As with any of our previously discussed processes there are specific assets and liabilities to be considered before developing mobile service and special-order parts installation. The current capacity issues in many dealerships have given credibility to alternative means to reduce traffic without diminishing revenue. Installing parts through the use of mobile service will reduce the number of vehicles returning to the service department thereby freeing up appointment time. It is feasible that this approach may also increase sales of maintenance and light repair items by performing them on location. From the perception of the customer this represents an increased level of service provided by the dealership which could result in improved customer satisfaction scores. Careful consideration of this form of service must also include a review of the potential pitfalls. The most obvious of these is the additional communication required to insure consistent performance. Contacts with the customer are increased by having to verify the location of the vehicle and the specific times it will be there. This is in addition to the required contacts for notification and appointment setting. In order to perform mobile installation a vehicle with the proper equipment and tools is an obvious necessity. The expense associated with this as well as the manpower requirements should be calculated and weighed against the anticipated return. If the installation of warranty components is done, a higher skill level may be required, thereby increasing the personnel expense incurred.

Another process that requires examination and is a source of frustration for all departments within the dealership is the special-order parts process for new and used cars. Without good procedures and communication this aspect of special-order parts can create numerous internal problems for all departments. Parts can get ordered without stock numbers. The salesperson asks to have it put under his name and to see “him” when it comes in, then gets lost in the shuffle. Parts often get ordered without repair order numbers resulting in a billing problem. Many times, the unit may be sold and delivered prior to the part being received and the order is not updated to reflect that ownership has been taken. The part will be received and not charged to the unit, causing the charges to not be reflected in the deal. When the part is received and the customer hasn’t complained of a problem the sales department probably won’t notify them to avoid a negative CSI response. As a result, the parts department may be asked to return the part and have to incur handling fees or use obsolescence credit.

A way to consider the needs of the sales department, parts department, and the purchaser would be to charge the part to the unit at the time it is ordered. The part should be charged on a repair order or counter invoice, whichever is applicable. If the part is charged to a repair order it should then be closed. According to the dealership’s preference the labor may be charged in advance ensuring that all pending charges are levied against the unit. A best practice would be to never order a part without a stock number, the person’s name requesting the part, and a repair order or counter invoice. When drafting your own policy, it should be made clear how internal parts orders must be authorized prior to placing the order.
Any policy should be specific in outlining the responsibilities of each department to the processes adopted. Sales department responsibilities should include all authorizations relating to the sale transaction and billing considerations. As well, the sales department should provide a report of sold units requiring special order parts, including the stock number with the new owner’s name and address. This would apply to all vehicles delivered prior to receipt of the part/parts, as well. This report should be provided on no less than a weekly, if not daily, basis. Communications and special-order procedures would work better if a daily report were generated. The Parts Department is now responsible to convert the special-order information from the stock number to the new owner’s information. Depending on the notification process being utilized in the store the customer is contacted upon receipt of the parts. This can be done within the parameters established for special order parts to have either the service advisor notify the customer, a specified parts employee, or arrangement for mobile installation. The service department must also be supplied with the necessary information upon parts arrival. Depending on the process, the service department must contact the customer to set an appointment for installation. If notification is to be made by a parts employee an appointment must be established with a service advisor. Mobile part installation would require the service department to contact the customer according to the mobile installation process previously outlined.

There are benefits associated with utilization of this process as well as some potential liabilities. This process eliminates, or at least minimizes, the need for involvement by the sales staff in the notification and appointment processes. Due to the lack in many dealerships of a defined role for the salesperson in handling special-order parts on new and used cars, confusion often follows. By turning the process over to the service and parts departments that already have a defined method for handling special-order parts we can eliminate that step. This should also help to minimize turn-around time from order to installation. Another advantage is to begin communication between the advisor and the new customer which will begin relationship building. Much like the often-attempted practice of introducing new and used car customers to service, this will serve to relax their apprehensions about future transactions. Levels of customer satisfaction would be enhanced through effective customer handling. The issues of internal documentation and billing concerns are also addressed by billing parts to the repair order when the special order is generated. In some instances, it may also be appropriate to bill labor charges that will be incurred at installation. This will allow the office to close deals completely in an expedient manner to properly address sales commissions. The liabilities remain much the same as with many of our previously discussed processes. Communication breakdowns can occur. Improper transfer of stock numbers to customer names and addresses may make it difficult to determine who the part was ordered for and increase parts on the shelf. The turn-around time from order to installation may be extended due to a number of reasons. There may be a perception of a lower priority because the origin of the order was internally driven. The advisor may not have been involved with the order and be unfamiliar with the customer’s concern. The advisor may also delay contacting the customer until his schedule is less busy, assuming that the expectations of the customer are less urgent because he accepted delivery without the part.

Continued next week in Part 3!

Written by David Dietrich

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