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Is it Parts AND Service or Parts VS. Service?

By: Curtis Clark

One of the most symbiotic relationships in your dealership is the one between your Parts and Service Departments.  The cooperation between these groups is crucial and communication is key for the two to work effectively to service your customers.  Yet there are still times where it seems like the Parts and Service Departments are more in a battle against one another.  We’re going to look at some things each department can do to work together rather than against one another.

The Service Department Undoubtedly there are members of the Service Department (both technicians and support staff) that have had something negative to say about Parts.  Those might include: “I can’t believe they got that wrong! I told them exactly what I needed.” Or, “I gave them that quote 2 days ago… why can’t they get it back to me?”  There are a couple things to keep in mind when it comes to these negative comments.  First, it makes the entire dealership look bad.  Alternatively, maybe there is a root cause that contributed to the issue.  Here’s one key thing when dealing with your Parts Department:  information is king! We all know by now that the single best thing you can provide is the model and serial number of the lift you are working on.  But there is more to it than that.  Are you working on the mast, a cylinder in the mast, an attachment, or the engine?  Did your technician get the information not only off the unit that they are servicing, but also the information off the corresponding piece they are working on?  Mast numbers and cylinder numbers are increasingly important.  They are used to make sure that the proper parts are located.  Some brands don’t manufacture their own masts, so getting these numbers are crucial to getting the right part.  In the case of attachments, most lift manufacturers note that an attachment is on the unit, but parts and service support come from the manufacturer of the attachment, not the manufacturer of the lift truck.  The more information you provide to your Parts Department the more accurate they can be.  From the Service management side are you training your technicians to capture this information?  Do your technicians have to go back and get this information in order to get the right part?  Training the technicians to get the right information the first time will be the key to not only getting the right parts but also to better serve your customer.  In regards to quoting jobs, a lot of the same principles apply as above.  Communication and information is King.  However, keep in mind the following:  just as your technicians cannot be masters of every brand of lift out there, your Parts Department has its strength and weaknesses as well.  If you’re working on competitive equipment, it may be tougher for your Parts Department to get the information they need from their sources.  Also, establish an expectation for quoting.  Your Service and Parts Manager should come together and agree on a reasonable time frame on quoting parts for service jobs.  One suggestion might be a fixed time for equipment you represent and another time frame on competitive equipment.

The Parts Department There are also some negative grumblings about the Service Department that come from Parts personnel.  Equally, it creates a negative view not only inside but also outside of the organization.  There are a couple things that Parts needs to keep in mind.  While your Service Department is your best customer, they are also your most captive customer.  Above all, have some empathy.  It is easy for Parts to forget that the technicians that are calling in or in front of them at the counter are also the ones that are in front of the customer more than anyone.  They are really the first line of defense for the dealership and see and get more grief at times, especially when something goes wrong.  So how can Parts help the Service Department and foster a positive relationship?  First off, be transparent.  If the technician you are working with doesn’t initially provide you the info you need, make sure to ask for it.  Make sure that when you’re pulling parts either for a job or for van replenishment, all those parts are marked with part numbers making billing easier.  Help the technician communicate info to the customer; this is especially crucial when it comes to recovery costs like freight.  Make sure that you communicate to the technician what the options are to bring parts in and how much those options will cost.  Don’t hesitate to offer add on parts for the technician. If they are ordering brake shoes, ask about associated parts like spring kits, wheel cylinders, and seals.  Parts can also help in the training process for new and senior technicians by explaining (not telling) why certain pieces of information are so important.

Management So far, we’ve been exploring from a front line view (technicians and Parts counter people).  In order for all these pieces to come together, management first and foremost has to set the standard for cooperation and understanding.  If your Parts and Service Managers are at odds then chances are the departments overall are going to be at odds.  It is important for Parts and Service Managers to work together to build a strong aftermarket effort for the dealership.  Find some common ground.  Parts gets about $.25 per dollar of labor billed which is great for the dealership and the parts revenue and profit number.  For Service, having a Parts Department means that management of inventory and tracking down of parts is handled for you.  Keep your technicians out there doing what they do best.  Both Parts and Service Management should understand how important inventory on the vans is.  They should also know how crucial billing out parts accurately is in making sure items get returned to the technicians and keeping track of the inventory.  Most importantly, WORK TOGETHER. It’s easy to remember you’re a profit center, but a little give and take should be common place.  Service will screw up, but Parts will also screw up.  When problems arise, don’t just point the finger at one another, work together to solve them.  Remember that Parts and Service Rework affect your dealership.  While you might be recovering your revenue you’re really just billing yourself.

It’s easy for both Parts and Service to forget that you’re working together to service your customer better.  It’s important to keep in mind that attitude on both sides will make a big difference, technicians and counter people should not berate each other.  Management should step in when big issues between personnel occur.  Your management needs to be the one championing the relationship between the two departments.  Your goal should be to have the Best Dealership, not just the best Parts Department or Service Department.


Curtis Clark can be reached at cclark@superiortire.com