A recent story on National Public Radio highlights a trend that we’re hearing about a lot lately: manufacturers have drastically reduced their production of new cars (logically, because they are not selling as many), while sales of aftermarket parts are dramatically increasing. Along with that, the average age of the American car is on the rise: it’s now 9.4 years. People are getting their cars fixed, rather than buying new. That reflects what we’re seeing in other manufacturing sectors as well, customers are repairing, rather than replacing, what they already have.
For OEMs, whether they make planes, trains or automobiles, it means that there is money to be made in the aftermarket side of the business. Easy, right? One would think so. However, Carlisle & Company (an independent research and consulting firm) estimates that OEMs usually control only about 40% of the service parts business. The other 60% is controlled by competitors who sell common parts, those components that are not engineered exclusively by the OEM.
Customer satisfaction with service information and parts data is one of the factors that drives market share in the aftermarket. Each percentage increase in customer satisfaction with the OEM’s aftermarket support data equates to a percentage increase in market share for parts and service.
How can OEMs increase customer satisfaction? There are three ways:
1) Make sure customers (usually dealerships and distributors) have the latest service and parts information. If an OEM does not provide accurate, up-to-date support information, the customer will look elsewhere to buy the parts. Quite often, OEM catalogs don’t contain the latest information; either because they’ve outsourced their parts catalog development to a third party or their in-house catalog creation and update processes are too time consuming. Either scenario results in the service and parts information being about 45 days out-of-date.
2) Make it easy for customers to find and order service parts. OEMs that provide a streamlined/automated approach to part identification and ordering capture more business because they are improving their customer’s business as well. This requires powerful searching and filtering tools to identify the right parts and procedures and an integrated, robust shopping cart. Also, customers must be guided to the proper part choices including: part supercession, installation kits and any special tools. This environment must integrate with back-end ERP and e-commerce systems, to streamline customer’s access to part purchasing, pricing and inventory data.
3) Provide a complete product, parts and service environment that incorporates all ancillary information such as technical specifications, troubleshooting, service bulletins, wiring diagrams and part lists, as well as pricing and availability. When customers have a one-stop-shop for all aftermarket information they have no reason to look elsewhere for help.
The bottom line is, to increase your aftermarket parts sales and market share, studies have shown that you have to increase customer satisfaction with your aftermarket parts and support data. Providing easy access to up-to-date parts and service information is the best place to start.