OEC Blog

Keep customer relationships strong as technology increases

Keep customer relationships strong as technology increases

"Relationships sell parts.”

This was a quote from one of the country’s top wholesalers at the recent OEC Dealer Council in Cleveland, Ohio. I was fortunate enough to be in the room with many experienced Parts Directors and Managers, and the nodding heads in the room confirmed they all agree with that statement. 

So it was shocking, a few minutes later, to learn this same room of people hardly EVER get out to visit their shop customers! Nor do their parts sales staff! And if this rings true to your dealership as well, then let’s take a look at why this disconnect exists, and why it’s important to get “face time” with your customers.

The exception rather than the rule

We hear from dealers that they can’t afford to have their staff away from the counter to visit customers because they lose money by doing so. Management can’t step in to help because then they don’t get their essential job duties done, either. Customer relationships take a back burner because we simply don’t have enough time.

This isn’t an isolated problem – our Performance Coaches see this in dealerships every day of the week. 

Getting out from behind the counter

One OEC Performance Coach brought a counter man out on shop visits with him. This person had worked for decades at the dealership and had built up strong relationships with his customers – over the phone. It was like a “reunion tour” for this individual. People were all coming out to greet him … because they were so excited to finally meet him in person! 

If they’re right down the street or just a short drive away, what’s stopping you from visiting the people who keep you in business?

Technology shouldn’t replace personal connections

As technology advances, we tend to lose our face-to-face connections with people because it’s easy to send a text, instant message, etc. Even our parts ordering technology has evolved. Now, some of your customers don’t even need to talk to you in order to get the parts they need; they can click a few buttons and place an order. What technology can never replace is the human touch – which every business still needs, and always will. 

After a while, if your customer’s relationship to your dealership is just with the computer, or with your voice on occasion, it’s easy for their loyalty to dwindle. They can feel less guilty about switching providers if they don’t have to see you and tell you why. 

Now that many shops are buying parts based on who has the lowest price, rather than other important factors like quality, it’s never been a more important time to get in front of your customers. Educate (or remind) them about the use of genuine OE parts and the value they get. This is especially true you’re your mechanical shop customers. In the collision industry, where insurance companies factor in to which parts shops buy you might be facing a bigger battle. Don’t give up, though – the complexity of technology within cars is helping dealers, like yours, demonstrate the criticality of OE parts.

Everyone loves a free lunch

One easy way to maintain your relationships with customers is through small gestures such as buying donuts or lunch for them and delivering it yourself. Some dealers host holiday parties or open houses each year for their customers. Your customers will appreciate your effort, and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with them!

Although our technology – and technology in general – is making your life easier, don’t forget what made you successful in the first place – your relationships. Find the time to nurture and maintain them … Your business depends on it!