Robust teamwork ramps-up service
San Francisco—Located in an enormous six-story facility with a sales showroom on the ground floor and service and sales on the floors above, Nissan/Infiniti of San Francisco, a member of the Avante Automotive Group, is an impressive operation from top to bottom. After a $30 million renovation to a building that formerly housed another car dealership for decades, Nissan/Infiniti of San Francisco opened six years ago and both the parts and service department contain the latest in systems and top-tier equipment throughout.
Parts Manager Scott Petrie, 56, is a veteran of the dealership parts game who started as a parts driver/detailer in 1979. The majority of his department’s sales support the company’s service department while maintaining a $500,000 inventory to accommodate both in-house and wholesale parts efforts.
“We sell roughly $200,000 in mechanical parts to our own shop, which is definitely a significant source of revenue for us,” Petrie said. “But, we want to build up our wholesale department and that’s why we’re out there meeting with shops and spreading the word on a continuing basis.”
With 100 body shop customers who order Nissan and Infiniti parts regularly from his department, Petrie’s main focus has been on selling collision parts, but is currently looking to gain more traction with Bay Area mechanical repair shops as well. “We’re strong right now on the collision side and body shops make up 80 percent of all our sales,” he said. “We have a lot of mom-and-pop mechanical shops in this area and that’s why we’re ramping up our marketing to reach out to them. These are normally smaller transactions, but they add up and make good sense for what we're already doing.”
San Francisco is a small city consisting of seven square miles, but covering that territory is time consuming in a town that often wins the award for the country’s worst traffic. But, by devising strategies and setting up delivery schedules to anticipate bad traffic, Petrie is able to get his parts to his customers on time on a consistent basis.
“We’re going to a hot shot system to compete with some of the wholesalers, because competing with them on price is literally impossible,” he said. “We can beat them on quality and convenience and that’s where we excel, anyway. If we can get our shops their parts in a reasonable amount of time, they’ll keep calling us, because we do offer a better product.”
Petrie insists that his entire crew must learn how to practice customer-centric phone skills as a part of the job, he said. “As a group, the Avante organization concentrates on phone skills to create a personal connection with the customers. They are trained to be friendly and taught not to put people on hold before they even open their mouths. We’re always refining our customer skills and the phone interaction is an important part of that.”
Service department synergies
Petrie knows that a parts department needs to work harmoniously with its service department to succeed and that’s why Service Director Tommy Kwan values their relationship.
“Scott definitely provides excellent support for our department, which helps us to do a better job,” Kwan said. “He does everything to help our technicians and it ends up benefitting the entire dealership as a result. In the end, we all know that our technicians are actually our customers as well, and getting them the right parts and tools to do the job correctly is a huge deliverable here at Nissan/Infiniti of San Francisco.”
With 15 technicians, five service advisors and four porters on his crew, Kwan’s department repairs approximately 500 vehicles every month. With Nissans making up 70 percent of his total workload, as well as getting a fair amount of Infinitis and Leafs, Kwan knows that his people have to be experts as well as generalists when repairing the three brands.
“We’re always pursuing OEM training for our technicians, so we pay for their classes and their ASE certifications,” he said. “We realize that every time a new model comes out, there will be new technology in that vehicle, so we need to know as much as we can about it. We have a lot of great research tools here for all of our techs to use, but having some useful knowledge going into it makes them even more effective.”
Open communication is one of the reasons why Kwan’s department flourishes and keeps hitting its numbers.
“We listen to our techs and their concerns and that’s how we’ve established a good rapport with the crew. We hold monthly meetings and share information and help each other and that’s key. We might not always see eye to eye, but we all have the same goal — to do a great job for every customer and every repair.”