Glass Half Full: With the Right Outlook – and Training – TPMS Can Boost the Bottom Line - Tire Review Magazine

Glass Half Full: With the Right Outlook – and Training – TPMS Can Boost the Bottom Line

In the real estate industry, experts say there are three primary issues: “location, location, location.”

In the tire industry, the mantra for most installations, repairs, etc., is similar: “training, training, training!” The industry, in general, is following the mission to a ‘T’ in dealing with tire pressure monitoring systems.

“Training, traditionally, has been important in our industry,” says Kevin Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training, “and, we’re not surprised that TPMS training is growing in popularity among our members.”

It’s growing so much that Rohlwing says TIA is in the process of translating its TPMS program into Spanish and French-Canadian. These translated programs, he says, will be available in the next few months.

Rohlwing estimates that more than 4,000 individuals have been exposed to TIA’s TPMS training program since it was introduced in 2005. “We know the numbers are solid because we track the number of people who have ordered the video and workbook and taken the test,” he says. “It has proven to be a successful, hands-on, step-by-step program.”

Rohlwing says the time commitment is minimal, compared to the knowledge and expertise gained.

“A person will spend 50 minutes watching the video, then read the workbook and take the test in about three to four hours.” The result, he says, is an individual who has an excellent overview of TPMS, can identify the types of systems and is confident in mounting and demounting procedures.

Rohlwing cites two TPMS advocates who have taken the process to a new level. They are U.S. Tire & Exhaust’s Steve Hamilton, director of new car dealer business and TIA certified trainer, and Les Cook, manager of tire applications engineer at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

Hamilton has developed his own supplement to TIA’s program for the Combined Locks, Wisc., tire distributor. “We brought together our largest dealers a few months ago at a trade show seminar,” Hamilton says. “We felt a need to bring TPMS training to our dealers’ customers, so we asked Kevin Rohlwing to help us with the technical end, and we handled the rest.”

Hamilton took the TIA template and developed a useful and informative PowerPoint presentation that “makes [the dealers] think. Using the training, we show them one way to make money by using TPMS. We tell them that the future is no different than the past. By having trained personnel and the right process in place, they can thrive in, not just survive, the post-TPMS world.

“Our goal is to help them develop a plan to take the TPMS challenges and turn them into money and customer retention. We believe the days of free tire rotation are numbered, but dealers need to have a strategy in place on TPMS. It’s going to affect everyone one way or another; you’re either going to make money at it or lose money. It’s that simple.”

Hamilton says that it is important to train everyone in the process.

“We need not only to train our technicians, but also, we need to educate our advisors (counter sales personnel) and our customers. Will these people be able to give the customer solid counsel? Will they be able to sell sensors, grommet kits, etc.?

“I think that [TPMS] is a great opportunity to communicate with the consumer. You have to point out the fact that it’s an issue of safety. You start with the positives; make them knowledgeable and educate them. That’s the key to success and winning customers over.”

Hamilton suggests that dealers accentuate the positive. “They need to ask themselves, ‘what is good about TPMS in their customers’ vehicles?’ Then, tell them about increased safety, improved tread wear and enhanced fuel economy.”

He adds these tips:

• Certify your technicians, which helps reduce your chance of liability;

• Train your advisors to educate customers;

• Take advantage of TIA certification and training program – lifts, mount/demount, balancing, TPMS, torque techniques and more;

• Receive test results and document training;

• Stock common TPMS sensor parts.

By having trained techs, advisors and customers, dealers will be better able to charge appropriately for the technology and service.

Cooper’s Les Cook is just as pragmatic in his view of training.

“We view TPMS as an opportunity to add value to our products and services for our customers,” says Cook, a 35-year tire industry veteran. “Furthermore, our dealers are telling us that they want this information (training) – a lot of it. Some of the tool makers are conducting training, but, obviously, it’s for their own equipment.”

Cook estimates that he has trained more than 5,000 individuals and “close to 2,000 dealers in about a 14-month period. “They are starving for information,” he says, “especially smaller dealers.”

Cook echoes Hamilton’s sentiments in another area, as well. “Tire pressure monitoring systems are not standardized,” he says. “At last count, there were more than 118 different systems available. They are very complex to begin with, and you compound it with everything available, and it can be very confusing.”

But Cook, Hamilton and Rohlwing all agree on one thing: Training can mitigate losses and, when used proactively, can be a differentiator. It’s a dollars-and-cents issue.

“Valve-stem sensor prices can be in the hundreds-of-dollars range,” says Cook. “I had one dealer in Tucson tell me that he had to pay $494 one time for a special sensor. I know that’s not the norm, but still, the average is around $100. Logic tells you that if you break a few of those a day, dealers are discovering that it can be a very expensive procedure if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s where good training comes in.”

Cook adds, “Dealers need to differentiate themselves from their competition. Even car dealers will tell you that this (using TPMS as an opportunity) is going to be a differentiator. They need to put something on the bottom line in the shop because they have to buy new equipment – sensor testers and additional tools – and they should offset that by charging for their time and the tools.”

Indeed, Cook says one of the first questions that dealers ask when he conducts his training is “about their pocketbook. They want to know whether the systems are ever going to get standardized.”

With that in mind, Cook has some recommendations for dealers or companies who also value training.

• Get something for your time and effort; don’t give away the farm;

• Understand how to mount/demount with sensors and how to do “re-learns;”

• Study different styles of sensors (Beru, Pacific, Schrader, etc.);

• Get an inch-pound torque wrench.

But, don’t try to contact Cook anytime soon to conduct one of his training sessions. “We’re booked every week until August,” he says.

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