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Epicor

Scott Thompson, Vice President, Automotive, Epicor Software (Photo: Epicor)

Scott Thompson has been involved with the software side of the automotive aftermarket for more than 30 years.

Currently serving as Vice-President, Automotive for Epicor Software, CarCare Business asked him about how he got his start in the industry, what his current role entails and some of the key things he sees that are instrumental for both jobbers and service providers when it comes to harnessing the power of software tools at their disposal.

CarCare Business: How did you first get involved with automotive aftermarket industry?

Scott Thompson: I have spent the vast majority of my career in the aftermarket, beginning with Cooperative Computing Inc., or CCI, in 1983. My initial responsibility was writing code for the A-DIS warehouse system. I also worked on the company’s growing portfolio of financial software packages and later managed development of all warehouse solutions. I was appointed Vice President of Automotive Product Development for CCITriad and then Senior Vice President of the automotive business of Activant Solutions. In 2007, I joined Internet AutoParts (IAP) as President and CEO. IAP, now part of the Epicor Parts Network product family, is one of the industry’s largest B2B eCommerce solutions.

CCB: Can you tell us a little about your current role at Epicor and some of the activities it encompasses?

ST: I oversee the company’s North American automotive aftermarket business, which is one of our largest business units on a global basis. Our aftermarket business comprises “content,” including electronic catalog and our industry leading replacement parts data set, as well as business management software, eCommerce connectivity, and industry analytics. Together, these solutions each day routinely touch a vast majority of aftermarket transactions conducted in North America, including those at the service provider level. Many might not realize that Epicor essentially “invented” IT for the aftermarket back in the 1970s, first as Triad Systems and CCI and later as CCITriad and Activant. Our invention of the electronic parts catalogue over 30 years ago revolutionized parts-counter efficiency and is still the market leader today. We are deeply committed to the success of the aftermarket industry and our thousands of aftermarket customers.

“CRM also can be a huge differentiator in the relationship established between the parts provider and repair shop.”

Scott Thompson, Vice President, Automotive, Epicor Software

CCB: In terms of business management software for the automotive aftermarket, do you see a distinct difference between the needs of larger multi-location parts distributors and smaller, individual stores and if so, why?

ST: There are certainly distinct differences, particularly in scalability of the solutions, but it’s wrong to assume that the owner of a single parts store doesn’t have the capability or need to leverage many of the same types of tools used by much larger competitors. That’s one of the most compelling benefits of a feature-rich, aftermarket-specific business management solution—it helps owners of smaller businesses level the playing field by enabling them to offer best-in-class services to their customers. In addition, no matter what the scale of your business might be, you need to be able to continually increase efficiency and improve your margins. That’s what a modern business management solution can help you accomplish.

For a business that operates one or more warehouses, its own stores and also services independent jobbers, there is still the need to optimize your investment in inventory, people, delivery trucks and other resources. Additionally, your business will be best served by a solution or solutions that are engineered to scale up as your business continues to expand. It should also help your team easily transfer inventory between locations, drill down into what’s moving and what’s not at each store, and enable your independent customers to have real-time visibility into your inventory through their own management system.

Part of what has helped make Epicor a premier solutions provider is a deep understanding of the auto care industry along with our commitment to sit down and learn both how you operate your business today and how and where you want to improve your performance. We then match the business owner’s goals with solutions and our knowledge of best practices that have had proven success in achieving those goals.

CCB: CRM is increasingly seen as an instrumental part in helping the automotive service industry build customer loyalty and retention. What are your thoughts related to this in terms of the jobber-service provider relationship?

ST: CRM is important and powerful at every level of the industry. We all recognize that the relationship with the ultimate customer—the consumer— is critical for all of our businesses. But CRM also can be a huge differentiator in the relationship established between the parts provider and repair shop.

I’ll give you an example: One of the first users of the Epicor Vision software—which is an enterprise solution ideally suited to large two—and three-step distributors—told us that they repeatedly heard the same comment from their shop customers: “You guys just seem to know us better than anyone else.” It was indeed true, because they were using their Vision software’s extensive CRM functionality to capture and communicate key customer information across their entire enterprise. While many solutions have a modest level of CRM built into them, Vision provides instant alerts across the distributor’s entire enterprise whenever there is a notable change in the customer relationship, such as a reduced frequency of orders, lower or higher volume by brand or product line, a credit issue or perhaps a rise in returns. Broad-based visibility into these issues helps ensure that the distributor can immediately act on important issues that could impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. The software offers an array of other loyalty-enhancing CRM capabilities that help every employee provide personalized service to each account—giving the customer the assurance that their business is indeed a priority.

CCB: With the growth in mobile usage, how can parts distributors ensure seamless operation and transfer of information between their businesses; their outside sales staff and also the service providers they serve?

ST: Epicor offers a new “Service Insights” app that empowers outside sales professionals to better manage their customer relationships in a mobile environment. The app can be integrated with their business management solution to access product availability and pricing and share a broad range of customer-focused analytics, including emerging sales and service trends. We also now offer users the ability to order products via the mobile app. 

CCB: With the proliferation in “Big Data,” how can parts distributors/jobbers successfully harvest and utilize the relevant information they need through software solutions like those from Epicor?

ST: Epicor is a preferred analytics provider to most of the industry’s large buying groups as well as to independent distributors and jobbers. Our industry data warehouse enables users to benchmark their businesses against industry peers across literally hundreds of KPIs covering inventory efficiency, turns, margins, parts demand by part number and postal zone, and much more. This information enables them to make faster, better decisions when it comes to investing their finite inventory dollars and identify operational areas where they can make tangible improvements.

CCB: Looking to the future a little, what are some of the trends you see in terms of business management software needs when it comes to automotive jobbers and parts distributors and what do you think is driving them?

ST: I don’t have to look too far into the future to spot one trend: the widespread realization that business software is no longer considered a cost centre—it’s a proven driver of sales, profits and loyal customers. It’s no secret that there are hundreds if not thousands of parts businesses that are relying on outdated business solutions. A growing number of these business owners are realizing that “It’s Time” to invest in proven tools that will help position them for stronger growth, increased profitability and long-term competitiveness. Those who make these investments will be the survivors in an increasingly competitive market. Those who don’t will likely find themselves working longer and harder simply to maintain the business they now have.

 

 

 

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