Sept. 8, 2003 – Training your new Parts person

When you hire a new parts person, do you give them a quick tour of the department, an overview of procedures, walk them through the invoicing process of your particular computer system and maybe even give them a tour of the dealership with introductions to the other team members? And then do you put them on the counter or floor helping customers with the direction of “Just come get me if you have any questions”?
If yours is like many dealerships that I have been in, when you have plenty of time to assist your staff, they don’t need help since there are no customers in the store. Then, all of a sudden, everyone needs your help, but there are more customers at the counter than your team can assist.
Suddenly, you find that you can’t even support that inexperienced team member much less give them some REAL on the job training.
If this sounds all too familiar, perhaps you may find the following helpful.
Keys to success
At PowerHouse we strive to improve what we believe are the three keys to success: Profitability, the team’s Quality of Life (yes, even yours), and Customer Satisfaction.
If you give these some serious thought, I believe you too will agree that each of the “keys” is virtually impossible to maintain long-term without the other two. You will notice that each of the following training steps creates an environment that from day one will have a positive effect on all three keys.
I suggest that you start ALL new team members doing things that (a) need to be done (b) they can be proficient at almost immediately (c) will bring them up to speed more quickly, and (d) will have NO or at least much less risk of causing a poor customer experience.
If you can accomplish these things, you will maintain a better return on effort, keep your hard earned customers happy, and your new team members will feel productive and confident much quicker. That all adds up to a consistently profitable, productive, and enthusiastic team, maintaining and creating loyal customers.
Effective training tips
Here are a few training ideas I have found to be simple but effective.
First, start ALL new members, regardless of eventual position within the department, putting away incoming orders (not receiving). This will do several things:
1. Get them familiar with the different items you sell and stock.
2. Familiarize them with the various vendors you use.
3. Keep them much more productive during those busy rushes, since there are many different items to put away. If there is a question as to where an item goes, there are other items they can put away until someone is available to assist them
4. Create a much quicker learning experience since they will handle many more items per day than if they were only working with customers
Second, have them perform physical inventories on fast moving items.
Print an on-hand inventory report of fast moving parts and accessories and have the new members check inventory levels (note any count discrepancy but DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO CHANGE COUNT).
The criteria for this report should resemble a walk-in customer as much as possible. I suggest that your inventory report be based on movement and not on type of product or a particular vendor. This jumbles your suppliers as well as your types of products. Now you have created a situation that very closely resembles a walk-in customer.
As this new parts person goes down the list they begin to become familiar with not only the fast moving items at your dealership but also the many different suppliers you deal with. In many dealerships a part or accessory may be in more than one location. So, now you have begun to bring your new team member up to speed without putting any of your valuable customers through a time consuming, painfully frustrating experience of dealing with someone who is not familiar with your department or products.
At the same time, you not only get a clear picture of your new team member’s strengths and weaknesses as pertaining to your inventory but you also get a fresh look at your fast moving inventory, helping to ensure that the items you believe to be on hand for your hard earned customers really are there.

Third, have these new team members pull parts for your number one customer, the Service Department. There are several advantages to training in this manner, and your new person will:
1. Deal with a smaller number of suppliers than with walk-in customers.
2. Begin learning how to handle different personalities differently to get the same end result.
3. Become familiar with the many different models, how they are identified and the similarities and differences between them.
4. Make fewer mistakes, since he will be working with a professional tech who “knows” exactly what he needs, the associated parts with that item and the supplier it comes from. This gives your new team member more time in a more controlled environment to pull or order the required parts. They also don’t need to learn about up selling, or having all the required information at this time.
5. Not have to learn how to manage the cash drawer if your dealership cashiers within the P&A Department.
6. Learn much quicker, since the transactions are faster. This allows for more “experience building” per day.
Finally, after there is a good understanding of the “mechanics” of the P&A Department, I would supply some sales training, if only of the most basic kind. Use the “Diagnose, Prescribe, and Ask To Buy” approach. Let me explain.
“Diagnose” is when you discover your customers’ needs, wants, desires, and motivation thorough active listening. By asking open-ended questions, you will quickly build customer confidence in you, and your department. Think about going to the doctor, would you trust the prescription if you did not believe he knew your needs? I can assure you that your customers are no different.
Now, when you offer features and benefits, and recommend a product or service (Prescribe), it is not received as just more information but as a solution to their perceived need.
Simply take the knowledge you have gained about your customer, and you now have the knowledge and the right to prescribe (sell through features and benefits) your products or services in a way that satisfies their needs. You can do this much quicker because you have their trust and you know what makes them tick, their needs, wants, desires, and motivations.
Now it is easy to ask them to buy because they trust you know their needs. Up selling now comes naturally and the cash register starts to ring with happy customers. Remember, people want validation that they are making the right decision from someone they trust. If you are the person they trust, asking them to buy will be perceived as that validation they need and you will sell much more. If you have not diagnosed to gain your customers trust, asking them to buy will be perceived as high pressure and pushy, resulting in poor sales and low customer loyalty.
The Bottom Line:
You are not any better than the skill of your people! So start them off on the right foot, maximize their strengths, and work to improve their weaknesses! Make the investment up front in them and they’ll help you position your dealership a cut above the rest.
To take your dealership to Top Gun status contact Bill Shenk toll free at 877.932.8809 or email Bill@phdservices.com.

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