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Message from your software: Happy Groundhog Day

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 09:00
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There are two basic narratives behind Groundhog Day. The first, of course, is about predicting the arrival of spring. The second, made famous by the 1993 Hollywood film starring Bill Murray, speaks to the dangers of repeatedly doing the same thing while somehow expecting a different outcome.

I prefer the Bill Murray approach. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that his character, “Phil,” a television weatherman, slowly comes to the realization that unless he makes fundamental changes in his life, he will be doomed to relive the same challenges over and over.

Seems to me that this movie captures the technology challenge facing many auto parts wholesalers. Those 10-year-old (or older) business management solutions might have done a great job back in 2005, but the business has changed and so have the needs and expectations of customers and counter professionals. Doing business without significant process automation, rich analytics, powerful eCatalog tools and modern customer relationship management capabilities is a sure path to longer hours, harder work and ever-shrinking revenue.

In one of the movie’s running jokes, Phil keeps stepping into the same deep, water-logged hole while crossing the street. That’s not unlike a parts store team that keeps fielding the same complaints about product availability (perhaps due to outdated inventory management processes), parts delivery (manual vs. automated scheduling), lack of electronic ordering capability (B2B and B2C connectivity), customer service (value-added information available via the store’s eCatalog provider) and reliance on conventional, paper-based invoices and statements (vs. 24/7 online access).

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Make no mistake, your extensive knowledge and personal relationships remain the cornerstone of your parts business. But when you look around and see competitors growing faster while you seemingly are investing more energy just to stay even, it’s time to eliminate that water-logged pothole in the path ahead.

This, by the way, is exactly what modern, aftermarket-specific software and related solutions can help you do. Spend less time managing the thousands of secondary details and focus more time on activities that will drive revenue. Implement many of the same technology-enabled capabilities that larger competitors are using to attract repair shop accounts. Prove to your customers and employees that you are committed to long-term success by modernizing your technologies and expanding your range of services. And here’s the best part: Your investment in technology likely will pay for itself in a surprisingly short period of time.

Yes, that legacy software still works to some degree. So does that dot matrix printer.  Shop owners and service writers still place orders with you by phone, even though they’d much prefer to order online (like they do with your competition). Investing in the right new software to drive your growth during the next decade won’t be cheap; and if it is, it might not be what you really need. But there is a path ahead – a different and better way to achieve your business goals – that’s free of the same irritating challenges you’ve been battling for the past several years.

It’s time to take another look – a serious look – at changing the way you do business with many of the same proven technologies that are helping to drive the success of your peers. All it takes is the first step. In this case, go rent “Groundhog Day” this evening and have a few laughs. Then, first thing tomorrow, challenge your software provider to help you find a better way.


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