Just three years ago, the Burt Brothers Tire & Service ownership team—made up of brothers Jake, Jeremy and Jason Burt and their cousins Cory and Brandon Burt—took over the helm of the Salt Lake City area business their fathers, Wendel and Ron Burt, built from scratch in 1991. They grew up in the industry just like many of you reading this: they swept floors, changed tires, worked the counter and managed stores. But when the time came to take over the family business, it was time to prove themselves.
First, they had to show their fathers they could handle the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day business. Second, they had to implement ways they wanted to make their mark on an increasingly digital tire marketplace. And, third, they had to crush the competition.
“We have to be a cut above the rest in customer service,” says Jason Burt in describing the competitive retail landscape Burt Brothers is in along the Wasatch Mountains. “We’re not going to conform with what’s out there or what’s always been done. You’ve got to know who your relevant players are and then play to your strengths.”
Those strengths include offering a family-friendly atmosphere, which their fathers instilled into the business from its founding. It includes giving customers free shuttle service and convenience features at the point of sale. For employees, it includes allowing flex time, proper sales training and a way to work their way up in the business.
It’s clear the Burt Brothers’ partners aren’t afraid of change; they welcome it. They’re innovative problem solvers, and yearn to perfect their business model as they expand and grow to define what next-generation leadership means. This is why they’ve been named Tire Review’s 2021 Top Shop Winner.
“They have just exceeded expectations,” says Wendel Burt, founder of the now 16-location business and father to Jake, Jeremy and Jason.
“They’ve brought enthusiasm and new ideas to the table,” adds Ron Burt, Wendel’s brother, co-founder and father to Brandon and Cory. “We left this in good hands, and they’re doing a great job.”
Over the last several years, change has become normal for the five Burt Brothers’ partners. From opening new stores with their fathers to building their latest store in Layton, Utah, from the ground up, or figuring out how to shift the customer experience due to COVID-19, the Burts know their business is ever-evolving, and that’s a good thing.
“We were joking the other day and saying if one thing doesn’t change every day, it’s two,” Jason says with a laugh.
One way they’ve learned to implement change is by taking a look at pain points in the customer experience. For example, 10 years ago, techs were performing a multi-point vehicle inspection with pen and paper. Now, they do digital inspections that can be sent to a customer’s inbox. During COVID, they realized customers weren’t comfortable waiting in the shop with others, so they changed their service model to appointments.
“COVID really threw a curveball at us, and we had to adapt to that,” Jake says.
“Our guys have always been trained to write up as many tickets as they can and hope we get it [the work] done in a day,” Jason adds. “It’s been a full transition from what we used to do. But, our customers are living and dying by their calendars nowadays.”
Other changes the Burt Brothers’ partners have implemented include valet service—picking up and dropping off a customer’s vehicle at home—as well as text reminders and text to pay. The business also offers a loyalty rewards program, where customers earn cash-back rewards, and the ability to buy tires on their phone in a contactless process.
“With COVID, we really had to look at the whole way we do business and make sure it was convenient for our customers,” Jake says. “We wanted to remove any barriers that might’ve been there to make the process more inviting.”
Leaders in Customer Service
As Burt Brothers Tire & Service celebrates 30 years in business, its owners are upping the ante when it comes to “Doing it Better,” as the dealership’s famous slogan says. One of those ways is through their sales training, called “The Pinnacle Process,” among employees.
In 2018, the business partnered with sales expert Steve Ferrante, a Tire Review contributor, and invested in his Pinnacle Performance Training for its sales and service teams. The training not only covers sales calls but goes deeper into developing service advisors as top-notch sales professionals who consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences.
“We call it our ‘Pinnacle Process,’ but it’s really just customer service. If you’re wanting to buy a tire from me, I need to know how you drive your car, where you drive your car and if you like the tires that are on it before recommending a tire for you,” Jason explains. “I’ve got to make that solid recommendation. You’re trusting me as a professional. This program helps our guys be able to prescribe something versus tell you what’s in the pharmacy.”
In addition, the training gives employees the chance to shift the conversation from price to more of an educational experience.
“It really helps us hone in on building that relationship with the customer,” Jason says. “This program sets us apart. We start asking questions, and if you call three or four of our competitors, they just spit out a price and you don’t know what tire you’re buying. When you call Burt Brothers, we tell you exactly what you’re going to get, and we make a solid recommendation.”
While the Burt Brothers’ owners are obsessed with fine-tuning their own customer experience, they also have an eye on the competition, Jason and Jake say. They firmly believe you have to know and study what your competition is doing in order to further differentiate yourself from the pack. In fact, they put together a whole sales training around what their competition does and what they sell, so that their sales team can describe how Burt Brothers “does it better.”
“If you don’t know what your competition is doing, how are you going to tell customers how you’re any better?” Jason declares.
They know what their competition sells. They know how it differs from what they offer and how it’s the same. “When things are exactly the same, guess what? You have to find something else that makes you better than the competition. I think this has really helped our salespeople and has helped us stay relevant,” Jason adds.
Another aspect the Burt Brothers Tire & Service ownership team has added to compete with online and big-box retailers is what they call “The Burt Bundle.” This is a package of 12 services that the dealership performs for customers after the tire sale, which includes free lifetime flat repair, tire rotations, re-balancing, alignment and TPMS resets.
“It’s a great customer retention tool for us,” Jake says. “When you buy the tires online, who’s going to rotate them for you? Who’s going to fix the flats? Who’s going to do the service after the sale? It keeps our customers coming back to us and really puts them at ease. With Burt Brothers, it’s all included.”
While Burt Brothers has always valued its employees, COVID forced the five-man ownership team to take a step back to truly understand what their employees value in their career with the business.
“Now, we’re really talking to them and breaking down what’s working, what’s not working, what would make them happier and what they need,” Jake explains. “That’s been something that’s really eye-opening.”
For example, Jake says they had a warehouse employee who had to take care of an ailing parent during the week. After talking with him, they found that giving him Tuesdays and Wednesdays off was what he needed to be able to work full time. So, they tweaked his schedule.
“We’re grateful for it. He’s grateful for it, and we’re both benefiting,” Jake says.
In addition, the business has added more part-time employees and flexible working schedules to accommodate employees’ lives. For example, they’ve added shifts from noon to 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. to close—shifts that an employee would have previously not been able to take, since they didn’t fit the mold of a more rigid schedule.
“Now it’s like, when are you available? We’ll make that work,” Jake adds.
A newer initiative they started is charting a path for employees to reach their career goals, Jake says. After looking at technician turnover rates, the partners realized that they were doing a poor job of retaining entry-level technicians. So, they’ve implemented regular meetings with employees and talk to them about their growth.
“We want to take this job they’re applying for and turn it into a career,” Jason says. “We’re working on showing the path that they can take—and they can take it at their own pace. So, we say, if you guys want to make more money, you don’t have to leave the industry. You don’t have to go to one of our competitors. We’ll give them all the training and tools they need.”
Thinking of Others
The Burt Brothers owners’ commitment to customer service is just as strong as their commitment to their community. For years, they’ve carried on the tradition of their fathers in sponsoring and supporting programs that give back to their community. They also instill a sense of responsibility in each of their store managers to do what’s right and keep customers coming back. That could be sponsoring a banner at a football stadium to paying for a set of tires for those who are down on their luck.
“I got a call from one of my managers one day saying, ‘I’ve got a veteran here. He’s crying. He says he needs a used tire. But, he really needs four new tires, and he’s on a fixed budget. I want to pay for them.’” Jason describes. “And I said, ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.’ We’re always on the lookout to take care of somebody.”
Other ways they give back include being the title sponsor of a local Rotary’s Coats for Kids event that culminates with a Burt Brothers’ Burnout Contest, which raises upward of $50,000 per year for warm clothes for underprivileged kids. They also give away a vehicle with all expenses paid for two years to a top teacher from the Salt Lake City area as part of their Teacher Feature program. During November and December, Burt Brothers participates in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, with customers helping them buy and give gifts to kids in need each holiday season. As Wendel Burt says, these community service acts are proven traditions that keep the business ingrained in the community.
Truly, the list goes on about what the business has done for its community over the years. But Jake and Jason Burt say the business and its employees pride themselves on being able to respond when the community that’s supported them for 30 years needs a hand.
“We definitely have the best customers ever,” Jason says proudly. “They know that we can take care of somebody when they need it, and what goes around, comes around.”