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Editor's Notebook

Taking a Cue From Other Industries

Customers have so many choices today for any of the products or services they buy. Businesses that want to attract new customers need to over-deliver on quality, plus the vital add-ons of value and service. They need to stand out in consumers’ minds to be memorable. If you forget these business-building essentials, customers may forget about you.

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So, think about ways to deliver a customer service package in 2020 that’s better than your competition, remembering that success is in the details.

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Chris Monroe (far right), owner of Monroe Tire & Service, says his staff has started using walkie talkies to communicate about repair orders, which has made their processes more efficient and changed the culture of the shop.

Need Some Ideas?

Looking at the business marketplace beyond our industry can provide some good perspective and even great ideas to incorporate into your own business. Just ask Chris Monroe, owner of Monroe Tire & Service in Shelby, NC, and a finalist in the 2019 Tire Review Top Shop Competition.

He offers this advice on boosting efficiency and productivity: buy shop radios. “I wish I would have done this earlier,” Chris says, as he recalled the first pair of walkie talkies Santa Claus delivered one Christmas when he was 7 years old.

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“As I have taken steps back from working in the business and shifted my focus to working ‘on’ the business, it became clear that we were spending a lot of time and money in the non-productive zone communicating and clarifying information as a work order moved through our shop,” he explains. “With technician [repair] discoveries, changing customer requests, scheduling and job allocations, the need for clarification within the process is amazing.”

So, he asked himself, “How can we keep things moving? How can we communicate more efficiently?”

He got the idea for shop radios when he was shopping at a large retailer one afternoon. His purchase didn’t have a barcode, and with a click of the earpiece, the cashier had the information she needed to process his purchase and get him on his way.

It was at that precise moment Chris wondered, would radios work in his environment? Would his team embrace the communication tool?

After a little research, he found a 10-radio set for less than $200. And, while it was really awkward in the beginning, as most of his team had never really used a radio (and not everyone wanted one), within a week, nine out of 10 employees loved it. “The one holdout, with some encouragement, is now working the channel like an old radio pro!,” continues Chris, who is amazed at what this inexpensive purchase has done for his business, wishing he would have done it years ago.

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After only four months with his team utilizing the two-way radios, Chris says everyone is now on the same page. “A few minutes here and there multiplied by 10 people adds up to hours every week of time and steps saved for our team and customers,” he explains. A side benefit that was never considered has been a positive impact on the dealership’s culture—a culture shift—as Chris explains: “There is a feeling of everyone being ‘in the know’ and up to speed thereby reducing employee stress levels. Lower stress is a win for both your business and your customers!”

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Don Foshay, Jr., owner of Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment, with six locations in Maine, chimes in with advice about maximizing downtime at the dealership.

“One of the ways that we improve both profitability and productivity is to involve everyone in the shop when looking at year-end policies and practices,” says Don. “Here in the Northeast, our business will start to slow down at the end of January. We use that downtime (in February) productively by looking inward at all aspects of our business. The shop examination process is done by forming small committees that consist of management, tire technicians and mechanical personnel.” And while Don says they might not use every suggestion, at least everyone at the shop feels like they have a voice in the process.

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“The frontline personnel know best what practices should be tweaked, abandoned or added as they are the people who live with those practices daily during the busy times,” he adds. “We try to come out of the first quarter of every year as a more efficient organization.”

What are some ways you can think of to deliver a better customer service package? Whether it’s making your shop processes more efficient or interacting with customers in ways that boosts their trust in your business, implementing them now will pay dividends the whole year long.

Check out the rest of the January digital edition of Tire Review here.

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