Friday, March 29, 2013

North America Automotive Parts Manager Survey: A Decade and Counting

Guess what year these major bad-news events took place:
  • A war in Afghanistan
  • An Enron scandal
  • A D.C. sniper
......But there was one bit of good news:
  • A Carlisle survey is born
Time certainly flies when you’re having fun – all of these events occurred in 2002! It doesn’t seem like 11 years since I sat in a meeting room in Center Line, MI, attending the first planning meeting for an industry-wide, syndicated North America Parts Manager Satisfaction Survey. Last fall’s 2012 survey marked Carlisle’s 11th consecutive year of delivering quality benchmark data on parts manager sentiment.

Over the years, this survey has grown and matured, guiding participating companies on how to deliver top-line dealer satisfaction. It has also spawned other successful surveys, including a Service Manager Survey, an Accessories Survey, a Heavy Equipment Parts Manager Survey and a Global Parts Manager Survey. As a “Happy Birthday” to our original survey, we’re taking an 11-year retrospective view of how far we’ve come.

We started with the concept of a survey ‘owned’ by the participating OEMs:
  • The participants set the content of the survey by mutual agreement.
  • The participants customize their survey with their unique language.
  • The participants benchmark freely with each other without fear of data misuse.
All of these concepts have remained steadfast. However, this doesn’t mean the survey hasn’t changed!

In addition to growing the survey and improving the process of data collection, the Steering Committee has adjusted topics and questions to keep up with the changing nature of the aftersales business:
  • We’ve added sections on wholesale support, retail inventory management, and other topics as the need arises.
  • We often add a one-time section to gather information on a specific topic, such as the nature of the dealer’s wholesale clients or how independent aftermarket suppliers perform relative to the OEM.
  • In 2012, the planning committee responded to steadily increasing scores and elected to report only the percentage of “Very Satisfied” dealers, rather than the previously reported percentage of “Very Satisfied” and “Somewhat Satisfied” dealers.
Of course, the greatest value in the Parts Manager Satisfaction Survey is the detail provided in OEM-level results and the ability to benchmark with other OEMs. However, there are some major lessons to learn from an industry-level view over 11 years of data. As the bulk of this data is top-two box, we are using it here for the purpose of our analysis.

  • By asking dealers what they want, you can improve their satisfaction, and doing so directly impacts your bottom line. Slowly but surely, we have seen industry-wide dealer satisfaction (and purchase loyalty) grow over time.
  • You can’t make all the people happy all the time. While satisfaction in most categories has risen over the 11-year life of the survey, some items haven’t budged, such as pricing policy satisfaction and satisfaction with order processing phone support.
  • In order to move “Overall Satisfaction”, OEMs have to respond to issues that are most important to dealers. This can vary somewhat between OEMs. At an industry level, there is still variation in the least important driver, but not in the most important drivers. Consistently, those drivers are “Parts Availability”, followed by “Order Processing Phone Support”.

Over the past 11 years, the Parts Manager Satisfaction Survey has helped participating organizations grow their business through a better understanding of their dealers’ requirements. We, at Carlisle, would like to thank all the participating OEMs for their support over these past 11 years, and we look forward to the next decade of collaborative effort to further enhance the value of all of our surveys.

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The PMSS (Parts Manager Satisfaction Survey) is a comprehensive, online survey that covers all phases of OEM support to their parts managers. It addresses 18 topics, including parts availability, delivery, technical support, training, field support, catalogs, and parts marketing. The surveys contains over 100 questions focused primarily on satisfaction, but it also covers key areas such as dealer fill rates and priorities for improvement. Along with the quantitative feedback, the 11,000+ respondents provided almost 65,000 verbatim responses with specific, actionable feedback for their sponsoring OEMs. 2012 was our 11th year conducting this survey on behalf of the auto industry. This year’s participation was our largest ever, with respect to both respondents and participating OEMs. We received responses from over 11,000 parts managers, representing 17 U.S., 12 Canadian, and eight Mexican automotive OEMs. If you have any questions on this or any other Carlisle syndicated survey, please contact Harry Hollenberg at 978-318-0500 x-106 or

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