By Richard Tackett
The mission statement of Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Des Plaines, IL, is to be a world-class provider of buses and aftermarket service. While the company makes strides every day to improve its world-class vehicles and parts availability, it’s become increasingly clear to MCI that it needs to compete not just with other top bus equipment manufacturers – but also against the very best online experiences in consumer business. This is the philosophy behind the re-launch of the company’s online parts store, the new partsstore.mcicoach.com.
“Our online parts store is currently a text-based system where users can enter information in order to find the parts they’re looking for,” says Brian Hanna, customer service manager for MCI. “Our competitors are starting to add images and other features to their sites, but we want to be an industry leader on all levels. If we are going to be the best, we realized we had to be on-par with the best shopping experiences on the internet.”
To accomplish their goal, MCI staff began examining the internet’s most highly-rated commerce sites in correlation with the company’s “world class” business objectives. Their intention was to create an online experience that’s comparable to, or even better than, the best in the automotive industry. Hanna says that MCI believed its then-current web interface was deterring customers from online purchases, and the new online store is part of a company-wide initiative to improve the complete customer experience whether on the phone or online.
MCI obtained the services of Netsphere Strategies for coding the functional commerce parts of the site, and partnered with Graphtek for site design.
Right now, customers will experience superior inventory searches, on-point suggestions, unprecedented visuals and high quality photography of the actual part, expedited shipping options and estimates, improved automated order tracking and more from their desktop, tablet or smartphone. Other enhancements will be rolled into additional phases throughout 2017 and beyond.
“Netsphere did a really good job of helping us understand what could be put into our initial release, as well as what should go into future releases, of the online parts store,” Hanna says. “They really helped separate pieces of the site that were easier to develop, as opposed to more difficult-to-tackle features.”
After a number of face-to-face meetings in Chicago with Netsphere Strategies and Graphtek dating back to May 2016, MCI’s team had created two lists – a list of features from other websites which they wanted to incorporate into the new MCI online parts store, and a list of features that drive the MCI customer experience. Experience-driving features include more intuitive ordering, visuals to correspond to part numbers and other customer-focused benefits.
“For instance, our new website allows the customer to review expedited shipping options and costs and select the best option for them,” Hanna says. “That was not the case with the previous version of the website. In the new store, we’ve made as much information available to our customers as possible, including shipping warehouses and alternate warehouses in the case of a backorder.”
More than anything, MCI was interested in
“The web offers so much more in terms of visual verification,” says Dustin Caldwell, senior marketing specialist at MCI. “With photos, customers can see the part that’s in their hand, read the specs and even blow up a schematic. That goes much further than a phone conversation.”
The new PartsStore.mcicoach.com
All active parts that MCI currently sells are available through the online parts store. There are some special-order parts that require a call for now, until future phases of the web store eliminate that need.
“There are some inactive parts that we still display on the web store, but those usually point to active alternates that are available for purchase,” Caldwell says. “In the case of special order and no longer available parts, we’ll do whatever we can to locate a part for any customer in need, but that will also require a call. Other than that, everything else is active for purchase.”
There are currently around 5,000 parts with images on the MCI online parts store, covering the company’s top stocked and critical items. Each part can be viewed from up to six different angles with zoom functionality. Over 30,000 parts are available for order on the site, and about 14,000 of those parts are available for immediate shipment from one of MCI’s warehouses.
Hanna and Caldwell say MCI is very confident that its MCI online parts store matches the ease of use similar to the online experience of the web’s top vendors, like Walmart or Amazon.
“Customers who like to shop online will really sink their teeth into the MCI online parts store,” Caldwell says. “They’ll feel that they’re getting a top-of-the-line shopping experience, because the site is similar to those of other popular online retailers.”
“Our competitors’ sites typically offer a text-based webstore, and some of them have rudimentary parts images,” Hanna adds. “They’re nowhere near as interactive as our store.”
Never stop improving
Future versions of the online store will focus on several new customer-facing features – for example, making the site’s search functionality better. If a customer wants to search for their bus, they will see a category breakdown of all the parts that go on that bus.
“There will be even further development down the road to ensure that we’re meeting our goals, and maintaining this as a world-class website well into the future,” Hanna says. “In the coming months and years, we’ll continue to implement features to benefit our customers.”
Motor Coach Industries will be at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2017 in St. Louis, MO, February 26 – March 2. Visit Booth #735 to test drive the brand-new MCI Online Parts Store!