MISSION VIEJO, CA — “Can I have your telephone number?”
That’s not just a question asked by a hopeful suitor after a chance meeting and lingering cocktails with another stranger in the night anymore. It’s now heard every time a pack of batteries is sold at any RadioShack in the country. And who said romance is dead?
RadioShack Corp., with more than 7,200 stores nationwide, estimates that 94 percent of all Americans live or work within five minutes of a RadioShack store or dealer. The growth of their business and success in their corporate mission to demystify technology in every neighborhood in America has been attributed to a combination of the company’s knowledgeable sales associates, the winning brand position of “You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers,” and most importantly, pricing and product quality and availability without rival. Forecasting the needs and buying patterns of their customers, which are virtually everyone, and tying that information to their suppliers and manufacturers is a science in itself that is propelled by technology that all starts and ends with the question, “Can I have your telephone number?”
How uniquely poised is your organization to dominate your market and provide cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of your customers? Strategic thinkers in all tiers of the automotive service supply chain are asking themselves that question. It’s the business management thought thread that links the tiers. Forecasting production, setting prices, managing inventory, driving traffic, increasing sales, personalizing the customer experience or cultivating relationships doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To achieve business goals, informed business decisions have to be made. Knowing your customers is a prerequisite, and the best way to get to know your customers is to obtain and analyze data about them.
Last week’s “DST Asks” question explores this issue by itemizing the types of data available for collection by service facilities, such as specific customer information, overall demographic information, vehicle make/model/year/license number/mileage, projected vehicle mileage and corresponding scheduled maintenance intervals, retained sales and service histories and fleet data. Like a quarter-mile circular running track, the data collected by service facilities about their customers is really both the starting point and the finish line in the supply chain marathon.
In recent years, there has been an explosion in computation and information technology. With it have come vast amounts of data. For example, just about any state-of-the-art POS system used by the smallest “mom and pop” service facility or the largest national chain that generates a work order for every vehicle service performed collects customer and vehicle data. The aggregate amount of that data is staggering but ultimately the key to providing technology-based solutions for enhancing profitability, productivity and market share of every tier.
Typically in the aftermarket, organizations such as your own, regardless of the tier in which you reside, build their own customer and/or vehicle data repositories or history systems to manage and reconcile services and transactions by providing employees with reliable information for facilitating commerce. However, when it comes to sharing that information with suppliers or customers that could use it for better serving your own needs, such legacy systems prove difficult to manage, especially as the customer and vehicle data lifecycle progresses and new data sources are added. The challenge of technology is to move beyond just the issues of in-house data accuracy, features, functionality, and reliability to the more sophisticated role of developing methods for sharing the data in a way that will unite supply chain processes to provide all segments of the industry with a comprehensive view.
Designing, implementing and managing those types of systems will create supply chain closed loop solutions and change the face of how aftermarket commerce is conducted. The development of an action plan now with a technology partner that details how eventually the who, what, when, where, and why the data you collect should be shared with other tiers will one day cement your standing in the supply chain and ensure your competitive edge. Most computer business systems that offer a service package capture a few industry standard information fields such as make/model/year. DSTWare’s service package with its “user-defined” fields allows each business enterprise to create and capture more than thirty-two vehicle or customer specific fields.
Detailed customer and vehicle data collected by service facilities will aid parts distributors in managing and stocking inventories that will aid manufacturers in forecasting production needs that will result in better pricing and product mix and availability and stocking life disciplines for distributors that will benefit the service facilities that can then better serve their customers. And the world goes round and round.
When Radio Shack wants your phone number, what they are really doing is involving you in a perfected method of alerting every tier of their supply chain with the data needed to forecast and ensure that when you need a pack of batteries at a competitive price, they’ll have if for you.
We continue to love to get your responses to our weekly questions, hearing your thoughts on the topics that we post, suggestions for additional questions and anything you’d like to share. Send us an email at: [email protected] or give us a shout at 1.800.700.4DST.
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“DST Asks” is written and sponsored by DST Inc. The opinions expressed in “DST Asks” articles appearing on aftermarketNews.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AMN or Babcox Publications.