Staying a step ahead of the competition is just one of the many challenges that business owners face.
But trying to figure out how the competition is attracting customers and setting their prices can be an overwhelming task to manage on your own.
In 1997, David Swan created InteliChek, a data collection agency specializing in gathering business intelligence and market data for the automotive industry.
“When we began, we were using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and the maximum amount of data we could gather in a month was 10,000 prices,” Swan explains. “Now, with our online system, we can gather 100,000 prices and we utilize 130 market analysts.”
The InteliChek team works with national corporations and their dealers, distributors or service providers to evaluate products and services, and it then compares that data to the competition. In fact, InteliChek provides the monthly Sales Intelligence data that appears in every issue of Tire Review.
“For example, we will look at the prices being charged for an oil change or a set of tires, and then we compare that to their competitors. This can help them better understand what they are charging for the same exact service, for the same exact vehicle in their local area market.”
The company’s latest technology provides clients with their own personalized website, which features up-to-date competitive intelligence.
Clients can log onto their personalized interface and view data at their convenience. They can see everything from their competitors’ prices on products and services, to how long it took them to answer the phone and schedule an appointment.
The web space is broken up into several sub-pages for quick access and easier understanding.
One tab is a “Behind the Scenes” area of the company. The client fills out information about his or her store such as prices, coupons, etc. Once this is filled out, the data can then be compared to the competition.
According to Swan, the scoring tab is one of the most popular features among clients at the moment. Started in 2009, the scoring tab allows the client to see how InteliChek’s secret shoppers have evaluated his own business.
“If you open up the evaluation criteria, basically it is a scoring program where we evaluate how service advisors respond to customers asking for pricing data,” explains Swan. “Some of the criteria is: Did they answer the phone in three rings? Did they offer a courteous welcome? Did they thank you for calling? And so on.”
The criteria are specialized to the client’s needs. A check mark means the criteria was met, an X means it was unsatisfactory.
Another useful tool InteliChek offers is the ability for users to record the conversation between the secret shopper and the service advisor. The results of the secret shop can be extremely revealing about the consumer experience at a particular business.
“A few years ago, we started working with a company and we called each one of its 600 stores once every two weeks,” explains Swan. “When we started this program, the average hold time for a lot of the stores was five minutes. By the end of the year, company-wide, they were able to bring the hold time to between one and two minutes.”
Swan adds that it pays to enhance your company’s phone manners, as one of his tire dealer customers did. “They directly relate this program to the success of their tire sales,” he says. “They increased tire sales by 37%, or over half a million in tire sales directly related to understanding what the customer was experiencing on the phone.”
With InteliChek, not only can you listen to your company’s secret shop experience, you can also listen to a recorded conversation with your competitors.
“You can hear how your competitors are trying to get customers in the store,” says Swan. “Do they offer some kind of discount? Are they hard selling? How do they approach getting that customer off the phone and into their store?”
Once a company has the InteliChek information, what they do with the data is up to them. While a company might change something like its phone etiquette, it doesn’t mean it has to reform every aspect of the business, particularly price.
Lowest Possible Price?
InteliChek has done focus groups to better determine how a customer justifies shopping at a particular business.
In one instance, regarding price, Swan says the focus group revealed they are willing to consider any business that was 18%-20% higher as long as it is a reputable shop that can do the work right the first time.
“You don’t always have to be the price leader, but you have to be in the ballpark,” says Swan. “They (companies) can keep their prices higher as long as they’re doing an excellent job in other areas.”
Swan notes other things that are attractive to customers are amenities such as a store’s hours of operation, if it offers courtesy transportation and if it has Wi-Fi for those willing to wait.
Another useful tool on the personalized InteliChek website is the “Promotions” tab, which pulls the data into a file that can be used for advertising purposes.
“Let’s say they wanted to use this competitive information on a poster or on a website or email blast,” says Swan. “They can go to this page and mark a few boxes and it generates an email to their marketing company or ad agency, without any typos, and the ad agency will get a file with all of this data.
“We developed this because what had happened in the past with the Excel spread sheets is people would mistype the information and enter a wrong price that we never gathered. So this really helps to avoid human error.”
In addition to its online computer data system, InteliChek recently released an iPad app.
While InteliChek has the ability to manage Fortune 500 clients with thousands of store locations, it also can help smaller independent tire dealers, as well.
Whether a company is interested in fine-tuning its sales and profits or is in need of precise data of competitive charges, InteliChek’s cutting edge data collection and analysis strategy is tailor-made for the tire and automotive business.