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Correcting Blind Spots

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You tell yourself, you’re the best tire dealership in your area. But, how do you really know that’s true? Do you have basis for your opinion or is that something you just believe out of self-pride?

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Odds are you aren’t No. 1 or even No. 2, you just believe your business is on top.

We all want to believe we’re the best at what we do, but our bias may cause blind spots. We aren’t able to be true judges of our faults.

In business, blind spots can be dangerous. If you don’t recognize your business is performing poorly, you won’t be working to make it better. It’s important to remove your blinders and see your business and your competition as they actually are in order to reach your full potential.

The first step to finding out if your tire dealership is really the best in your marketplace is to know what your competitors are doing.

There are several different ways tire dealers can check out their competition. A dealership could use a secret shopping provider to compare businesses. Or, as I urge you to try, a dealership’s owner can play the role of customer and check out the competitors for themselves.

Odds are it’s been many, many years since you had to purchase a tire from the consumer point of view – and that’s if you’ve ever had to. Well, it’s time to step through the looking glass and think like your customer.

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This shouldn’t be too challenging of a role for you to play. You may not fall into the traditional tire consumer role, but you are a consumer of other goods. Just think about what you expect and how you feel during different service and retail experiences.

According to Google’s study on tire buyer’s habits – “Digital Helps Tire Brands Gain Traction” – 46% of consumer’s went online to conduct pre-purchase research. This data is two years old, and online research has only increased. So, for this exercise you must start your role as consumer online.

Whenever I’m in need of a service, I Google the service, paired with my Zip Code or city (example “tires, 44333” or “tires, Akron”).

Check out the Google searches for your area and see what tire providers pop up. Visit their websites on both your smartphone and computer.

Is the site easy to navigate? Does it offer consumer education? Are the store location and hours easy to find? Can you purchase tires on the site? Can you schedule an appointment?

If a competitor has something you don’t have that can help a customer make a more informed decision or make their path to purchase easier, then they have the upper hand.

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Once you’ve scouted out the digital space move on to calling other tire dealers, car dealers, big box stores, etc.

When we were working on the March 2015 cover story about competing with car dealerships, I called dozens of tire and car dealer locations. In those calls I could tell who really knew their stuff and who was reading tire information off their computer screen. It was always a clear-cut decision as to where I would take my vehicle in a given market, and, unfortunately, the independent tire dealer didn’t always win.

As you are making your own phone calls, play dumb. I’m sure you’re aware, the average consumer doesn’t really know what their tire size is, or really where to go to find it. The helpfulness of the person you talk to on the telephone can determine if a customer will come in or not.

It’s also important to notice the extra questions a tire provider may pose. Did they determine who would be driving the vehicle? Did they ask how often and how far the driver regularly traveled? These questions make the customer feel like the dealership understands their needs and will make a more informed tire recommendation.

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After you’ve finished your calls, it’s time for the physical visit. This can start with an in-car drive by. If the building doesn’t look inviting from the outside or is falling apart, the customer may never even go into the store.

Once inside the store you can check out the friendliness of the staff and the building amenities. Really notice the little details. How long did it take for them to greet you? Did they greet you with a smile? Do they offer free Wi-Fi? Is the waiting area clean and comfortable?

These things are small, but they matter to customers as they sit and wait for their vehicle to be serviced.

Everything you’ve examined at competitor’s locations, you should also explore at your own business.

If you are struggling to look at your own dealership objectively, ask a staff member or friend to point out what you may be blind to.

Checking out your own store and your competitors shouldn’t take you much time, but will provide you with valuable knowledge. You may find that you’re delivering the best customer experience, or you may discover you’re not.

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Don’t let the results discourage you, let them inspire you. Learn from your competitor and don’t be afraid to borrow ideas and customer service techniques that work.

Remember acknowledging your business has weaknesses will only make you stronger in the long run.

It’s time to remove your blinders.

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