Toppa and Dryden agree that fixed ops directors can re-engineer the way the parts department runs to allow employees to earn more money and increase their job satisfaction, generate higher profits and help the service department increase throughput. Among their suggestions:
- Offer incentives to move old inventory: Parts managers shouldn't maintain shelves of slow-moving parts, because that ties up too much capital, Toppa says. Instead, dealers with old inventory should empower parts employees to sell it at a discount.
"Motivate your guys to get rid of" old parts, she says. "Give them additional incentives. It's better getting those parts out the door at cost than having to write them off at 100 percent somewhere down the road."
- Hold sales contests: As part of a flexible pay program, fixed ops directors should run sales contests that enable parts counter employees to earn more money.
"Why don't we do contests in service and parts like we do in sales?" Dryden says. "I tell dealers they should have a contest every month. Give them a goal."
- Reward speedy parts deliveries: Part of a counter worker's paycheck should be based on how fast he or she gets parts to technicians in their bays, Toppa says.
"The quicker they get those parts to the technician, the quicker that car can be done and the tech can get another vehicle in the shop," she says.
- Encourage mail-order and online sales: Activity in most parts departments ebbs and flows. Mornings are often busiest, as techs order parts for the workday, deliveries are made and the parts counter is hectic. Moving parts sales online can keep the cash registers in the parts department ringing consistently throughout the day.
Hodges Subaru recently opened an online parts store (hodgessubaru.com/parts/ estore.htm) that allows customers to shop online and pick up parts at the dealership. Garcia, the parts manager, says that saves time for the customer and the dealership because counter employees can spend less time on the phone quoting prices.
- Maintain discretion in pricing: Although parts workers should be empowered to offer reasonable discounts to customers, Dryden says, they shouldn't do so unless the customer asks.
"One of the ways you can structure parts counter people's pay plans," he says, "is to give them a spiff or a bump based on how much of the gross" profit they preserve.
- Engage in suggestive selling: If a customer comes to a Ford dealership to buy an oil filter for a Taurus SHO, the counter worker could recommend five quarts of Ford Motorcraft oil. Or the employee could offer a special price to package the filter with a cabin air filter and an engine air filter. Most parts workers aren't trained to do this, Dryden says.
- Track parts sales on a tote board: "When you walk into the dealership, they've got a board that shows this person sold this many vehicles, and it shows the deals that are pending," Toppa says. "Do that in the parts department, too.
"Give the employees a little competition. If they see their number up there, and it is lower than someone else's, they might try a little harder to get their number up. It's more money in their pocket. If the bulk of their pay is tied to commission, you'll work harder for it."
- Establish sales targets: All parts employees, not just managers, should be aware of the dealership's sales goals for the parts department.
"At 90 percent of the dealers in America, if you ask the parts counter guy what their parts goal is for the month, I doubt if they'd even know," Dryden says.