Commentary: Routine changes

Updated Jan 29, 2021

Routines can be good and have consequences if not followed.

Every morning I used to come into the office, grab a V8 out of the refrigerator, go to my office, sit down, shake up my V8, open it and read my emails. One morning I came to the office, grabbed a V8 out of the refrigerator, went to my office, sat down, opened the V8, shook up my V8 and read my emails — while I tried to figure out how I was going to get this red juice off the walls, my computer, clothes and hair.

If only I had followed the routine.

Routines, processes, check lists, whatever you want to call them, are typically effective ways we have found to make sure tasks get completed in the correct and most efficient and safe manner. These routines should always be reviewed to see if improvements can be made, but should be followed whether swinging a golf club, landing a plane, changing oil in a truck or servicing customers.

This year has thrown a wrench in a lot of routines in the customer service arena. One of our projects for a truck manufacturer included calling new truck owners to see if the dealer followed procedure for new truck delivery.

We would ask questions like did the dealership show you the service manual and review it? Was the owner introduced to the service manager and parts manager? Did you complete a walk around the truck? Did the dealership complete all activities on their checklist? In today’s pandemic environment, that checklist would be hard to complete in the same manner.

Outside parts salespeople who have a routine of stopping in at customers on particular days have probably found they are, through no fault of their own, not as (or not at all) welcome as they once were pre-pandemic. Who would have thought showing up at a fleet garage with coffee and donuts to review current needs with the maintenance manager is now a potentially hostile act?

Whether it is delivering a new truck or selling truck parts, performing service or other customer-facing activities, the typical routines do not likely work today. As the goal of the routine, process or check list is the same, the routine has to change — and likely already has.

Most dealers and distributors have had a few months to test what works and what doesn’t. We have had dealers and distributors tell us they have seen increases in the use of e-commerce parts buying by fleets. E-commerce is a must and is certainly one way to supplement face-to-face contact. But there still needs to be a focus on keeping the personal relationships because if you don’t, it is too easy for someone to change parts sources when sitting at a computer screen.

Now is the time to start evaluating what is working and what isn’t when it comes to keeping those personal relationships. Learn about what your people are doing to stay connected to customers, who is having success and why? Can the processes be shared with others on your team?

Unfortunately, there are likely people on your team who are waiting for pre-pandemic times to return and not adjusting to the new world we live in. That might have been fine if this pandemic ended in a couple weeks, but it didn’t and we don’t know when it will.

You may not have all the answers, but your distributor, dealer and component manufacturing councils may have some good insights they can share. Industry publications, your friends and family in other industries might have an idea or two you could use. You don’t want to wait until 2021 to determine what to do — by then it likely will be too late.

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single- and multi-client projects. He can be reached at john.blodgett@mackayco.com.

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single- and multi-client projects. He can be reached at john.blodgett@mackayco.com.

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