By: Paul MacDonald
Relationship opportunities come to us all the time with parents, children, friends, business associates. Typically, we focus on our employees and customers spending a significant amount of time nurturing these key relationships. What about our parts distributors? Every service company is dependent on parts distributors. You need them as much as they need you. Work as hard on building good distributor relationships as you do building a good relationship with your employees and customers.
How good parts distributor will impact your business:
- Service Level: Distributors’ level of service can positively or negatively affect the quality of your service. Having the right part at the right time can make the difference between selling or losing a repair and the customer choosing to buy new.
- Timeliness: Timely deliveries are crucial to how customers view your reliability. A quick turnaround can become key to minimizing your inventory, which in turn translates to less risk of inventory obsolescence and lower cash outlays.
- Accuracy: It’s not good enough to have a part to you in record time, it has to be the right part and in useable condition.
- Innovation: Suppliers can make major contributions to your efficiency and processes with on-line ordering, parts look-ups and the relationships they have with the major OEMs.
- Co-operative: It’s often said that rules are made to be broken. Polices and procedures are in place to ensure efficiency but sometimes in a pinch a good parts distributor will to go above and beyond to get that rabbit out of the hat.
It’s Ok to set the bar up high. Parts distributors are essential to all appliance service businesses but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have high expectations of them, just be fair. State your level of service needs clearly. Hold your parts distributors accountable on their level of fulfillment. Make sure they stay competitive with random price checks but don’t nickel and dime them. There are times you need to replace a parts distributor because you have outgrown them or they can’t preform to your expectations. Before dropping a parts supplier, however, be sure to try to communicate your needs and concerns to them so that they can modify their processes (bend the rules) and deliver on your needs. Also it’s not always wise to rely on just one supplier. If that supplier has staffing, supply issues or policies you can’t adhere to, you don’t want to be in position where you’d be affected. So keep a secondary distributor in the works – and don’t be embarrassed to tell your key distributor you’re doing so.
Be a Better Customer, you don’t have to buy the most parts to be the best customer to a parts distributor. In order to be a better customer to your parts distributor, here are a few things you should do:
- Always pay on time. There is a reason this is listed first; It’s the most important rule. Parts distributors offer wholesale accounts payment terms of 30 days. If you can’t pay on time tell them so and work out a payment plan.
- Provide adequate lead-time. Give distributors appropriate time to source & process your orders. Place orders well before cut offs when possible each day.
- Place sensible orders. When you order the same part two or more times in a month maybe you should consider adding that item to your truck stock and ordering in quantity to reduce your distributors’ processing costs.
- Return on time. Return unwanted & unused parts regularly as soon as you know you don’t want them.
- Stay current on warranty credits. Stay on top of any warranty parts submissions and reconciliations.
- Personalize the relationship. Visit your parts distributor’s branch in person regularly. Get to know the people that process your orders and see if they’ll be attending annual conventions and make a point of meeting them in person at the convention.
Building good relationships with your parts distributor is not a complicated process. Be communicative, treat them fairly, set high expectations (coupled with loyalty) and pay them on time. It’s that simple.