Case 2: Build Their Respect and Trust
Dealers can’t just open their doors, display some tires and sit back and watch profits roll in. It doesn’t work that way – and if it did everybody would be doing it.
No, tire dealers have to market. They have to gain trust. They have to provide honest service. In short, they have to do everything a little better than the next guy.
Everything from the how a dealer handles female customers to store hours must be scrutinized. Will doing something lead to more profits or less? Can offering free transportation garner more business? Which is better, plastic or wooden stirs for the coffee machines?
Tires are tires, everyone needs them and it’s not too hard to find someone who sells them.
What is hard is finding a dealer who goes the extra mile and is willing to do what it takes to rake in profits. Because if a retail tire dealer wants to succeed, absolutely every facet of the dealership needs to be taken into account.
It’s been said before and it will be said again: tire dealers still have to fight a stereotype from women customers. Notice it isn’t a stereotype "of" women customers.
Women have long distrusted tire dealers, mechanics and practically anyone who deals with cars. Women don’t trust dealers easily and they are highly suspicious, feeling they’re being taken advantage of constantly.
Because of higher vehicle ownership among females, more and more women are walking through your dealership door all the time. And all the data says that women are predominately the ones who bring the family vehicle in for service. Because more and more women are making vehicle-related buying decisions, dealers have to be able to win them over or a great profit center will be lost.
"Women tend to buy the service place more than the brand," said Scott Mueller, CEO of the 17-store Mueller Tire and Brake chain in northern Ohio. "They’re much more influenced by the shop, than the tire brand. Women will continue shopping until they find the right kind of shop they are looking for."
That means women are choosy.
That means women are always looking at their dealer and looking for a new dealer.
That means dealers must adjust in order to earn and keep their business. And they must market to women where women are, and in a fashion women want to be talked to.
"Certain media, like radio and television, are better to use to attract women customers as opposed to print media," Mueller said. "I would say there some specific applications we use to attract women customers. Overall, we used to buy adult- or male-skewed radio stations. Now we buy more female-skewed stations, because we can buy a certain radio station that specifically targets women."
Getting women customers into the dealership is not the problem. As Mueller eluded to, keeping them coming back is. A fancy advertising campaign is only going to let them know the dealership exists. Once in the store, the dealer has to take care of them.
"I think we’ve tried to make an extra effort to get our sales people to empathize with all our customers," Mueller said. "For women, tire buying is seen as a one-sided transaction and the general consumer lacks information. It becomes almost a defensive purchase."
And that requires treating them fairly and with respect. If dealers were to treat all their women customers as though they was their mothers, women would likely be less hesitant and concerned. Be honest and straightforward. Give them options and explain why a certain tire is recommended over another or why specific service has to be done to the vehicle. Women are looking for honest, trustworthy dealers.
"I think tire buying is still skewed toward males," Mueller said. "Men are influencers in the decision-making process. I think that even very independent women still seek advice from those they trust, be it their father or husband. That’s what our research is showing. But you still have to take care of them when they come in."
Better Than Average
You own an average dealership. You have an average size store with an average number of bays and employees. You work on an average amount of cars per week and bring in an average amount of profits. Sound about right?
While most dealers don’t regard themselves as average, many are. That means they have to find ways to take care of customers better. Grow the business and make sure that any new business that comes in stays in. Now that is what the average dealer does.
"It used to be that if I didn’t have a part on hand, people would wait a few days while I ordered it. Not so, anymore," said Jerry Morben, manager of C&F in Bismarck, N.D. "If you don’t have it on the shelf, they’ll go elsewhere."
C&F has done a lot of things over the years to get and keep business. Whether it’s a more diverse inventory to handle customer needs or longer store hours or friendly service, Morben makes sure the customers come first.
"People buy from people," said Morben, a 25-year veteran of the tire industry. "If your customers feel they can trust you, they’ll buy from you. Honesty is what people value.
"We do something called show-and-tell. If the customer is here in the store, we like to show them what the problem is. That way, it’s not just the technician’s word, the customer can see the problem. And if the customer is going to drop the vehicle off, we try to do an inspection before they leave, in case we find something and they need to see it. It’s just something else that helps us build trust."
Morben tests his dealership against car dealerships in the area. He sees them as the real competition, and works to stay ahead of them.
"You have to at least offer what the car dealers have, and maybe a little more," he said. "We have qualified techs like they do, only we work on all cars, and the car dealers can get a little fussy if they have to work on a different car make."
That’s why C&F has extended hours of 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and is open until 5 p.m. on Saturday – longer than any other tire dealer in the area, according to Morben. There are also 10 service bays stocked with ASE master certified technicians to ensure customers don’t wait too long to get in. Morben says availability and quality work is a huge factor in retaining satisfied customers.
"If you have competent mechanics, you can service people’s equipment faster," Morben said. "Profitability comes from hiring and finding the best people for the job."
And profitability comes from taking care of the customers. C&F offers rides for customers who are dropping off vehicles. Morben even tries to keep a variety of salespeople behind the counter, noting that older customers like to talk to older sales personnel while younger customers usually head to younger employees. He’s even considering hiring a female salesperson to handle women customers.
Morben takes care of his own, making sure that his employees are happy. "We just hired a gentleman for our mine business. He was working for the competition selling $1.8 million per year. His commissions got cut, so he came to me. We offered him the same money, and now we have the business that he used to get for the competition."
It’s the little things that really can put a dealership over the edge, profit-wise. Respect and trust are the basic things all customers are looking for. The only thing that matters is where they find them.a