The answers you need are likely in the questions

Jan. 1, 2020
Suppliers should ask how they perform in the customer service arena.

I have a question for you: Why don’t you ask more questions?

I’m not talking about the “Why don’t you buy more stuff?” questions. I’m sure somewhere across the nation those questions are being asked every day. I’m talking about the “How are we doing?” questions that help you measure how well you are meeting or exceeding your customer’s wants, needs and expectations.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you aren’t concerned about the answers to those questions; I know that many of you are. I’m just wondering why you haven’t done more to see how you’re doing, which is especially confusing considering the work that many of you have put in to helping your service dealer customers do just that.

And, that is what has me wondering. If you think it’s important enough for me to monitor my relationship with the motorist by creating the cards and subsidizing the cost, how can you ignore the opportunity to see how you’re doing with your customers?

In all the years I’ve been in this industry, I’ve only received one such questionnaire and that didn’t actually come from the supplier; it came from a management assessment program that the supplier had enrolled in. It’s almost as if you are afraid to find out how you’re doing, yet that fear could prove fatal. You see, as our awareness grows regarding the relationships we share with our customers, you can’t help but contemplate how long it will take for us to start wondering about the relationships we share with you.

I know I have. In fact, I just had everyone at our shop fill out a performance evaluation that I created to measure how they think our suppliers are doing.

My father and I used to argue endlessly about the number of suppliers necessary to effectively support a business like ours. He felt lots of suppliers were needed and that it was dangerous to put “all your eggs in one basket.” I believe you need lots minus some — a smaller number of better, more committed suppliers.

My father recently succumbed to the complications that accompanied his heart surgery 10 months ago, and all those decisions are now mine.

I believe we need to consolidate, and the only way I know how to do that is to evaluate each of our suppliers on the basis of their performance. The only way to establish that performance is to ask lots of questions — the same questions I believe you should be asking us.

I asked everyone at the shop to respond to questions about our suppliers: What is the quality of the parts they carry with regard to fit, finish and performance? Or, how likely are we to get the right part delivered at the promised time? Are their prices competitive? How do they handle stocking inventory, cores, credits and returns? How far are they willing to go when it comes to acquiring hard-to-get parts? How good are their counter professionals and what is their warranty like?

The answers were both interesting and enlightening. They will serve as a foundation for the difficult choices I will have to make over the next few weeks or months.

What I don’t understand is how come I seem to be more interested in the answers than you do.