Here is a riddle I would like for you to solve. What is the one thing you always think you don’t have enough of, but always end up having too many? The answer? Employees at the Parts Counter!

You know the drill during season. You are at the parts counter, all the phones are ringing, a service tech is burning valuable time, and you have ten people standing in line each waiting to get help from a parts person. Then, within 30 minutes, everyone is gone, and you have parts people hanging out with what appears to be little, if anything, to do.

Now, having been behind a parts counter at season, I know that there is never a time when there is nothing to do, but on the surface it can sure seem that way. One of the most common questions dealers ask me during this time of year is, “How do I know when I should hire another parts person?” While I would like to tell you that the answer is simple, I would be lying. The answer depends upon several factors.

If you want to bring on another parts person just because you are busy 90 days out of year, then I encourage you to rethink how your parts department is set up before you throw another body at the problem. Ask yourself a few questions first. Are your fastest moving parts as close to the parts counter as you can get them? Do you have a station at the parts counter where customers can look up their own parts, print off a pick ticket, and then hand it to a parts person to pull the parts and check them out? Are you using high-density displays in front of your parts counter that allows customers to pick their own common parts without needing the help of a parts person?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you probably are in need of a parts support person, but not another parts person. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, a parts support person plays more of a supporting role at the parts counter, and doesn’t need to have the same high skills as a parts person. His/her job is to take the pick ticket from the parts person, pull the needed parts, and then check the customer out while the parts person continues to wait on the next customer. The support person answers phones, takes the customer’s information, and lets them know that the parts person will call back just as soon as he/she is finished at the parts counter. The parts support person can also check in parts and put them away, call customers who have had special order parts arrive, and deliver parts to the shop as needed.

Another nice thing about having a parts support person is that when your parts volume has grown to a point where you need to have a full-time counter parts salesperson, you have one already trained and ready to go. Then, hire another parts support person.

I am a firm believer that, in most all positions in a dealership, the motto should be, “Hire low and grow!”