Monday, 05 February 2007 16:42

Customer service sets central Texas parts department apart

Written by Michelle DeCrescenzo

March is a monumental month for the parts department at Allen Samuels Dodge in Austin, Texas. Don Benner, director of parts, and six of his employees will celebrate 20 years of service together next month.

“We’re like a close knit family, we’ve all worked together so long,” Benner said. “When I decided to move, so did my whole sales crew along with my warehouse guys.”
 

The team moved to Allen Samuels on March 1, 2005, and the transition was a successful one. Benner said when he started, the parts department was yielding monthly sales of $325,000, and that number quickly increased to $800,000.
 

The dealership is a member of the Mopar Masters Guild, which is comprised of the top 100 purchasing dealers of DaimlerChrysler.
 

With more than 22,000 lines housed in a 20,000 square-foot facility, there’s a good chance the part that a body shop is looking for will be on hand. Benner estimated that 88 percent of the average order is filled inhouse, and 12 percent is ordered and delivered overnight.

 

Accept no substitute 

As a Dodge dealer, the parts department at Allen Samuels sells only original parts, and they are the number one selling Dodge parts dealer in central Texas. Benner has the option of selling aftermarket parts, which he did for some time, but eventually decided against.


“My biggest problem was accessibility of getting the parts,” Benner said. “I didn’t feel like I could give my customers a fair service with aftermarket parts, so I got out of it. Some of those things took months to get.”


In the last year and a half, Mopar implemented a program to match the price of certain aftermarket parts, such as fascias and lamp assemblies. Benner said this allows his parts department to be more competitive.


The competitive prices have benefited Hutch Hudgins, owner of Hutch’s Body Shop in Cedar Park, Texas.

“We’ve had a relationship with them for a number of years,” Hudgins said. In that time, Allen Samuels has matched aftermarket prices on bumper covers and sheet metal on most occasions, Hudgins said.
 

“Body shops now are graded on what percent of aftermarket parts they sell, so it certainly does affect us,” Benner said. “But we are going to stick with our original equipment parts, which in our opinion gives the customer a better value. It also gives the body shop a better fit.”

 

The truck state
  

As for the most popular parts, it’s the Dodge trucks, by far, Benner said. Truck hoods, fenders and grills rack up the most sales. This comes as no surprise for a parts department located right in the center of Texas.
 

“In Texas everybody seems to have a truck in their driveway,” Benner said. “Here, everybody drives trucks, even the ladies and the wives. Ever since they introduced the 4-door truck, it can be a family car.”
 

It is safe to assume that Benner drives a truck, and he quickly offers the details of his 4-door pickup, a one-ton Dodge duely.

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Speedy delivery
 

Once the orders have been filled, 18 trucks set off in different directions to make the deliveries throughout Texas. The trucks follow different routes, with stops as far away as Dallas and then on to Fort Worth, Midland, Odessa and San Angelo. The deliveries continue all the way to Corpus Christi, and Laredo and around to Houston, Bryan and College Station, among other locations.
 

The delivery route has recently expanded to include Louisiana as well. Deliveries depart Allen Samuels throughout the day and into the night, and parts are dropped off at the body shops from early morning until noon.

 

It’s the little things that count
 

Benner prides himself on the ability to fill orders with efficiency, but he said what really matters goes well beyond that.
 

“Everybody has the same thing that they’re selling, it’s parts,” Benner said. “What separates a good dealer from a not-so-good dealer is service. Without service you’re just like everybody else. To me, we sell service. We don’t sell parts, we sell service.”
  

In the end, it comes down to the way you treat a customer, Benner said. Lead wholesale sales-man, Chuck Foster, and the rest of the crew honor this sentiment. That resonates with customers, such as Toby Cavaness, parts manager of Busker’s Body Shop in San Angelo, Texas.
 

“Every once in a while we run into really oddball stuff, whether it’s an accessory or aftermarket part,” Cavaness said. “Normally, if I have trouble finding something, Chuck knows what it is and where to find it.”
 

As one of 12 Allen Samuels dealerships in Texas, Benner can pull inventory from any of the locations.
 

Distance is not a hindrance either, and Benner said he has bought parts from California or as far away as Maine, and they are shipped overnight.

“When a customer calls and wants a part, there is no obstacle that we can’t overcome,” Benner said. “We get that part to them as quickly as possible. If it’s not available, we find it.”

For more information on Allen Samuels Dodge in Austin, call (800) 856-2728 or visit http://austin.allen-samuels.com.

 

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