You have something manufacturers, distributors and other tire-selling businesses would like to have: closeness to the customer. Every day, those people who might seem to be giving you a headache —calling you with their complaints, concerns and cries for help—are actually giving you a tremendous gift. They are giving you the opportunity to provide them with peace of mind, a solution to their challenges and safety for them and their passengers.
Yes, it is a gift—a treasure that others would like to steal from you. Much like the movie, “There Will Be Blood,” they drink your milkshake; they drink it up.
Think about it: every day you have consumers who are not just standing in front of you (or on the phone with you), interested in buying tires or needing auto service, the most important gift is that they are open to your recommendation.
For the billions of dollars that flow through the tire industry, the independent tire dealer (that means you, dear reader) influences over 60% of the replacement tire marketplace. That’s a lot of tires—a huge percentage of the market controlled by thousands of independently owned tire dealerships across the United States. For arrogant outsiders looking in, all of those hometown mom-and-pop shops (perhaps more accurately described as multi-generational small- and medium-sized businesses) combined have tremendous power. At the same time, it’s that spirit of independence, going at it alone, that may be their greatest weakness.
Any investor can tell you that the stock market prefers certainty. When you consider the consolidation and uncertainty that’s taking place in the tire industry, minimizing risk for investors becomes of increasing concern. Why leave retail sales up to chance? All those independent (read: uncertain) retail channels, wielding the power of their influence in the purchase decision in thousands of micro-moment recommendations each day, could be seen as a risk that should be minimized. With that in mind, the intent of tiremakers to get “closer to the customer” makes a lot of sense.
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So how can you possibly compete against the trend? How can you protect what’s yours from larger entities that want what you have?
It comes down to confidence.
Confidence is defined as having a “firm trust” that one can rely on someone or something. And it’s confidence that will protect you from the trends at play.
Tiremakers know this—it’s why they spend millions on advertising to build trust and confidence in their brand. And as an independent business owner, it’s the one thing you can directly influence in each interaction—which is another reason why closeness to the customer is a gift.
When a customer is confident that you are their very best resource for what they need and they’re confident they’re getting the best value (which is not the same as lowest price, by the way), you no longer have competition.
In fact, your ability to build trust with those interested in doing business with you is the great differentiator. It’s why it’s a great time to be in the tire business.
So, how do you fortify your business to protect it? By providing value, confidence and trust to each and every human in contact with you. On the phone, at the counter, on their mobile device, via Google, on Facebook, online—every touch and impression needs to be fortified as impenetrable by competition. My challenge to you is to look for ways to increase the trust and confidence in each interaction.
On the phone, are you quoting prices when asked? Or, are you providing trusted counsel based on the information the customer gives you as you explore their options and schedule an appointment to solve their problem?
In the store, are you providing a space that shows you care about the customer’s needs? It’s more than popcorn and Wi-Fi (though those are nice). Look for ways to make it about them.
Online, are you responding to your shop’s reviews (positive and negative) and providing all the information people need to feel good about choosing you?
During the repair process, are you communicating what’s happening regarding the work being done today and the maintenance concerns that may need addressed tomorrow? This also includes showing the customer what needs to be done, performing the work as promised and on time, then showing them what you did. It also includes a phone call, text or email after the fact to make sure they don’t have any concerns about the work performed. Better to invite a comeback back than risk losing that customer to another shop—and it shows you care, which also builds confidence.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Talk to your team and your customers to explore what else you could do, change or update to ensure ongoing trust between your shop and its customers.
I think you’ll agree—your close connection to the tire-buying consumer is worthy of protection and investment. Amazon, tiremakers, online retailers, car dealers—they all want to drink your milkshake and smuggle away your beloved customers. Building confidence is your best defense.
In fact, the tactics and strategies used to fend off competitive threats are many of the same qualities we look for in the recipient of our Tire Review Top Shop Award, presented by Coats. Why wait? Visit tirereview.com/topshop to nominate a great team and business for this honor.
To your success,