Leveraging data to boost service
Denver metro—As the Denver-metro area continues its economic and population boom, its rapid growth isn’t just noticeable in new construction dotting the skyline, but also in the region’s automotive repair business. As independent service providers (ISP) proliferate, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for parts suppliers to track business from longtime customers and new players.
Mercedes-Benz USA Parts Pro certification program is helping dealership parts departments’ solve some of those issues with real-time customer data research and analytics and quarterly coaching sessions.
“There is no ‘dabbling’ in the wholesale parts business,” Tony Guardian, parts manager at Mercedes-Benz of Denver, said. “You’re either in or you’re out, and being Parts Pro certified sends a clear message to the market that, ‘Yes, we’re in.’”
His parts department has been Parts Pro certified since 2014 and recently completed its required recertification for 2018. It’s using the Parts Pro program to capitalize on real-time market data to see which of its customers may have slipped under the radar.
Before Parts Pro was created, Mercedes-Benz USA had proprietary data analytics and reporting platforms in place for its dealerships parts departments, but the reports routinely came in a month or two behind. “I couldn’t see March sales statistics and pipeline data until July,” Guardian said. “With Parts Pro, I can capture real-time market data.”
Mercedes-Benz units in operation (UIO) in the Denver-metro area are much smaller than, say, a high-volume Japanese nameplate he added. “If we haven’t heard from a customer in a month or two, sometimes it’s simply because they haven’t seen a Mercedes-Benz in their shop, but if we haven’t heard from them in three or four months, that’s a sign that we’ve simply missed contacting them. The Parts Pro program has helped us hone in on those independent service providers (ISPs) who we haven’t contacted in some time.”Quarterly visits from the regional Mercedes-Benz Parts Pro coach, Larry Haley, gives Guardian and his two dedicated wholesale parts consultants, Steven Totta and John Southwell, one-on-one coaching on how to use Parts Pro to its full potential. They discuss strategies how to analyze overdue service calls in the dealerships delivery radius, which covers approximately 40-miles in all directions around the Denver-metro area, and concentrate on contacting those customers first.
Mercedes-Benz of Westminster
Just a few miles northwest of Mercedes-Benz of Denver, Charlie Billings, parts manager at Mercedes-Benz of Westminster, and his staff are using the Parts Pro program to gain insight into how to leverage the dealerships $1.3 million in inventory against aggressive aftermarket competition and fulfill orders without the convenience of a part distribution center (PDC) in Colorado.
“All of the Colorado Mercedes-Benz dealerships face a lot of the same challenges as it relates to order fulfillment,” Billings said. “The closest PDC is in Texas, so, whereas a dealership there can swing by the PDC and pick up a part to complete an order, we operate on a one- or two-day lead time, meaning we have to maintain higher stocking levels. The Parts Pro coaches understand these challenges and provide insight on how best to address them.”
Billings said Mercedes-Benz USA has hired Parts Pro coaches who have industry experience in both the aftermarket and OE wholesale parts businesses, which has given him and his staff access to knowledge about how aftermarket suppliers operate that he would have otherwise not had access to.
“The Parts Pro coaches we’ve had the opportunity to work with have data on local ISPs that are using programs such as CollisionLink, OEConnection and PartsTrader, which they will pull before a coaching session and use to teach my parts consultants how to effectively price match with the aftermarket suppliers,” Billings said. “There are some insights I’ve learned about price matching that I never would have known had it not been for our Parts Pro coach.”
He added that Mercedes-Benz Parts Pro coaches will go on ride-along sales calls with parts consultants to ISPs as an added training benefit.
Mercedes-Benz releases StarParts line May 2018
Both Mercedes-Benz of Denver and Mercedes-Benz of Westminster have stocked up on StarParts, which is Mercedes-Benz new mechanical parts line designed for vehicles five years and older and priced at 25 percent below corresponding Genuine Mercedes-Benz Parts MSRP. They offer enhanced margins for ISPs and are geared toward high-volume model series. The line features common wear and tear parts such as brake discs and pads, filters, spark plugs and wiper blades, among others.
Guardian said being a Parts Pro certified dealership influenced his decision to stock the StarParts line and will also help him market and sell them.
“We want to do everything we can to take care of the people that are purchasing from us,” Guardian said. “Parts Pro has helped us become more online-based, so our customers who are using RepairLink or ordering with us through Mercedes-Benz WebParts will now have immediate access to the StarParts line.”
StarParts will be identified with a “90” or “95” suffix at the end of the part number, according to information provided by Mercedes-Benz.
Billings sees the StarParts line as both a potential revenue option for his outside customers, but also a message of the dealership’s commitment.
“It’s an ever-changing parts world out there,” Billings said. “I think Mercedes-Benz has done a great job of supplying us with information and keeping us relevant and viable in the market. The introduction of StarParts is another aspect of that and being Parts Pro certified I hope sends the message to our outside customers that we understand they can do business anywhere, so we’re putting in the time and training necessary to ensure that they do business with us.”