Express keeps them coming back
Vallejo, Calif.— By intently concentrating on providing the right parts for its busy Toyota Express Maintenance (TXM) system, Toyota of Vallejo’s Parts Manager Brian Bare is able to keep everything moving along at a rapid pace. To provide factory-scheduled service quickly and accommodate as many as 100 cars on a daily basis, Service Manager Michael Voss uses a pit crew-inspired approach.
Prepaid Toyota scheduled maintenance plans ensure that customers keep bringing their vehicles to his department for convenience and expediency.
“Every new Toyota that qualifies comes with a maintenance plan that covers our customers for either two years or 25,000 miles at no cost,” Voss said. “Our ToyotaCare Plus covers them for five years or 75,000 miles, which means we can often hold onto them for at least 4 to 5 years or more. The plan keeps them in the loop, but we also have to provide great service in order to retain them after the plans expire.”
In order to keep Toyota of Vallejo’s customers coming back again and again, Voss and his crew of 14 techs in the TXM and estimators perform a comprehensive multi-point inspection of all major systems, including brakes, tires and all fluids (coolant, brake, power steering, windshield washer and transmission), checked and replenished at no additional charge. The service also encompasses a tire rotation if needed.
By getting their customers’ vehicles in and out rapidly and hiring the right people to work quickly without making mistakes, Toyota of Vallejo TXM is growing.
“I made our TXM a major priority when I came here two years ago and that has not changed. We work with Brian to have all of the parts and supplies we need in hand and stock them on a daily basis. The best type of people working in this fast-paced environment are light combination technicians who can multi-task and be thorough. Our TXM gives us a prime opportunity to make a great impression, so that when they’ve hit 25,0000 miles, they keep bringing their vehicles to us.”
Parts department, online ordering
Bare’s department carries a lean $380,000 inventory of parts consisting of 70 percent mechanical and 30 percent collision parts. He manages a crew of 10, including three drivers and three trucks out of an 11,000-square-foot department. As a former back counterman for 35 years, Bare said that he knows what it takes to run a department and serve both his service department and his wholesale accounts effectively.
“We work as a team here with a culture that our former Parts Manager George Harris started,” Bare said. “We cover each other and make customer service important to stand out. I’m short one person right now so we’re looking around, but until then, our shipping/receiving guy steps in and we don’t miss a beat.”
Bare has been able to build up the wholesale parts aspect of his department by attaching a face to his dealership. “We don’t use a third-party outside sales company to promote our wholesale, because I believe that we can be successful by doing it ourselves. We rotate one of our counter people out for a couple weeks, so that they can shake hands and visit our shop customers. Adding that personal touch is a big deal and we have been able to see improved numbers when we get out there and press the flesh.”
Bare said he also increases wholesale numbers by price matching and doing everything he can to integrate more factory parts into his shops’ repairs.
“If there is a program out there, we want to participate in one form or another. We have had success with RepairLink for strictly mechanical parts and Auto PartsBridge and CollisionLink for collision parts. It’s a significant part of our business and our wholesale shops are more and more interested in using those programs. They have made them more easy to use by putting them online, but it also means that we have to respond within 15-20 minutes in order to get the sale. Our customers’ expectations are higher now and a lot of it has to do with the technology.”
When it comes to parts availability and delivery options, Bare said that he is all about flexibility and customer convenience. “We carry a fairly limited inventory here, stocked with parts we need on a regular basis. Our distribution center is in San Ramon, which is roughly 45 minutes away. With a fill rate of 96 percent, most of our deliveries are next day with a cut-off time of 5 p.m. If the circumstances allow it, we’ll do hot-shot deliveries to capture more wholesale business.”
With a new technical school that accommodates 3,000 students nearby, both Bare and Voss won’t ever shy away from employing young people in their respective departments.
“Solano Community College has an awesome auto tech school and we have been able to get some very good people from them,” Bare said. “We start them out part time primarily on the weekends at first. If they show us that they can do the job and are willing to learn, we will always try to hire them. We are happy to support the schools and we love working with the younger generation.”