ROANOKE, Va.Supporting its members, while letting them keep their own identities, has been a key differentiator of Advance Auto Parts Inc.'s TECHNET auto service program.
Originally launched in 1987, TECHNET is a marketing solutions program for independent repair shops. It has since grown to 7,000 locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
We're not trying to take away their logo, their identity or their brand, George Lesniak, director of commercial programs, TECHNET, told Tire Business.
TECHNET members can use the program's logo and signage to signal to consumers they are part of the network, but businesses can still have their own unique logo and brand.
In January 2014, Advance Auto Parts acquired General Parts International Inc., the parent company of the Carquest brand, which presented these two longstanding companies the opportunity to work together to include the benefits of both organizations as they merged into one, according to John Hanighen, vice president, commercial programs at Advance.
The auto parts marketer then launched Advanced Professional, driven by Carquest, in January 2015 as its commercial branding, which includes both the TECHNET and Carquest Technical Institute programs. Mr. Hanighen emphasized that both programs are important components of the company's commercial branding.
TECHNET actually started as a technician's networka telephone diagnostic hotline to help shops through problems that they couldn't fix on their own, Mr. Lesniak said, noting early on, as an auto parts' reseller, it had to help our customers grow their businesses. We had to help them any way we could so they could stay in business.
As the program grew, it became clear that TECHNET could assist its customers not just with diagnostics support, he said, but with training, marketing as well as a variety of programs to help them save money and grow their businesses.
That's basically how TECHNET has grown over the years, by adding the different elements to help our TECHNET members grow their business, Mr. Lesniak noted.
Messrs. Lesniak and Hanighen credit TECH-NET's success to the support it offers customers, mainly through the company's commercial account managers (CAMs).
Our CAMs are absolutely second-to-none in the industry, Mr. Lesniak claimed, and the way they work with their customers and their understanding of their business is just absolutely amazing. And that's really what sets TECHNET apart.
There are several components to the TECHNET program that help it stand out, Mr. Hanighen continued. However, he agreed that a dealership staff's ability to understand its customers' business and ask the right questions so they use the tools in the TECHNET program efficiently is important.
No one uses everything in the box. We'd love to think that, but that's not the case because everything's not for everybody, he said.
TECHNET is trying to grow and improve continually based on its members' needs, Mr. Hanighen said. The program has a national council of customers that provides feedback, and the members themselves drive enhancements and improvements to the program as it moves forward based on their needs.
They (the customers) tell us what they need and we work to find the best pieces, the best services to allow them to continue in business and to grow the business, Mr. Lesniak said.
TECHNET is not about us selling what we have or forcing something on a member.... It's a partnership. It's a relationship.
And it's Carquest and Advance working together with the independent repair shop owner to help each other grow our businesses.
The TECHNET program comprises six components, which the company calls The Shop and Motorist Journey. Those areas are: attract motorist; inspection and diagnosis; source parts; installation; return vehicle to motorist; and follow-up.
By segmenting the customer's business to those six different areas, we can also segment the different elements within the TECHNET program within those areas, Mr. Hanighen said.
When a TECHNET member needs help in inspection and diagnosis, they can look to that section and find the elements that will specifically match those specific requirements and those needs.
The goal with these segments is to match the availability of TECHNET's elements with the way its members do business. This is also how the program goes about adding new elements to its platform.
For instance, over the past decade the program has put more of an emphasis on technological aspects, including computer-based products for customers to not only be able to market to consumers, but help them understand the complexity of automotive repair. This includes Virtual Vehicle, a product that helps the consumer understand why his or her vehicle is performing the way it is and why it needs to be repaired.
Overall, the program continues to add more technology components related to social media, to running a website, using business management and shop management programs within the business, direct mail, mobile apps, and even geofencing, which helps consumers more easily locate TECHNET members'shops.
Mr. Hanighen said TECHNET charges a monthly feewhich he called minimalvs. an annual fee like similar programs in the market because it doesn't want our customers to feel like we've roped them in or tied them into a program.
We try to prove to our customers that we are attempting to earn their confidence every single month. It keeps us on our toes, and it keeps our customers loyal to us.
The monthly fee is per location, not per company. Mr. Hanighen said most TECHNET members are independent repair shop owners who operate either a single location or small number of shops, although some members have as many as 15 to 25 locations.
As far as return on investment, Mr. Hanighen claimed it is astronomical what members receive for a minimal fee.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143; Twitter: @jenniferkarpus