“What we've done is take basically every program element (and given it) a separate page on the website with all the details about what's in it for members, how to get started and any phone numbers, forms and documents you need to implement that program within your shop,” he said.
The new website also includes access to an online store featuring one portal dedicated to Technet-brand merchandise and consumer giveaways, and another for point-of-purchase (POP) materials.
“In the past, point-of-purchase materials would have to be ordered manually by calling Technet support, and then Technet support would have to order them through our third party vendor and then bill the members individually,” Mr. Lesniak said.
“What we do now is allow our shop members to order those materials directly through the portal, have them shipped right to their shop and then they are billed through their Advance or Carquest store account.”
The POP store also has been enhanced with a section dedicated to most often used items—including warranty repair order holders, invoice stickers and mirror hangers—which now are available to Technet members at no charge and with free shipping.
According to Mr. Lesniak, there are more changes to come.
“This is only phase one,” he said.
“This is the start of technetprofessional.com. Once we have the base platform launched, we have some very exciting enhancements — user forums, live chat, self-help, the ability to register for local councils — a lot of different possibilities that we're going to be enhancing this website with on a regular basis.”
AAP has made several other upgrades to its Technet program this year.
Prior to Jan. 1, members had access to 12-month/12,000-mile labor reimbursement on parts purchased through Advance and Carquest locations. The reimbursement period has been extended to 24 months/24,000 miles to better match the company's consumer protection warranty.
In addition, the company rolled out changes to its roadside assistance program.
In the past consumers who spent at least $25 at an Advance or Carquest shop could call the roadside assistance hotline, which would then direct a service provider to their location to assist them. The feedback from the field, Mr. Lesniak said, was that it took too long to get help to customers this way.
“We found that if we would allow our consumers to call the service provider of their choice, they can contact anyone they want, they can negotiate the rate and have the service provider come out to help them,” he said.
“The consumer pays for the roadside assistance and Technet reimburses them up to $75 per event.”
Both changes were a result from program member feedback, Mr. Lesniak added.
“Something really important to understand about Technet is that this is the members' program,” he said. “They pay in membership fees. I'm in charge of running the program for them to make sure that we've got the right elements that they request, that they want and they need to run their business, so when enough of our members ask for something we have to find a way to make it happen.”
Other optional enhancements include discounted access to digital menu boards, lobby TVs and website marketing by AutoNet TV and enhancements to shop management programs from Bolt-On Technologies.
In addition, the firm's nationwide consumer warranty now covers hybrid/electric vehicle batteries.
Though AAP always is considering new program offerings, one of the biggest challenges in recent years for Technet has been getting members to use more of the program elements that come with their membership, an issue Mr. Lesniak said the firm finally addressed in 2016 through internal “boot camp” training.
He said the company has trained its commercial sales managers and account managers to become local experts on the program, allowing them to work with shop owners in their areas to customize the Technet program to work for them.
“We are seeing tremendous results,” Mr. Lesniak said.
“We are definitely seeing an uptick in output of our Technet member shops. They're selling more services because they're using the tools we provide to help them grow their businesses.”
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz