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Editor's Notebook

More Than a Trophy and Check

Dealers are using Top Shop program to “set the bar” and push for improvement.

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Since we started the Tire Review Top Shop Award sponsored by Ammco/Coats back in 2007, we have witnessed a transformation.

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Back in the not-too-distant day, tire dealers used to talk about car counts and hot lick numbers and hot-shot deliveries and miserable fill rates. Make and model year tire sizes rolled off their tongues like the names of their kids, as did the occasional “big fish story” of how they dealt with a cranky customer or out-of-touch councilman.

Now you’re likely to hear dealers use words like “sticky” and talk about things like being emotionally attached, creating and building the store brand, how customers cannot believe they are in a tire store, about earning the right to be promoted to others.

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What the hell is this? Aren’t tire stores supposed to be, well, tire stores? Aren’t the owners supposed to be gruff cigar-chompers who yell…at everyone? What’s with all the “touchy-feely” stuff?

When I ask dealers why they entered the Top Shop Award program, what drove them to take the time, I hear the same response: Because it “sets the bar and pushes us to improve.”

Wow. That’s all I can say.

We cannot take credit for these new-age dealers – or any of the 20 honorees from past years. They were great dealers before Top Shop, and they would have continued to be great without Top Shop. But the award program allows us to tell their story, to show how they think, what they key on and where they see the future.

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If those stories of today’s top tire dealers inspire others – to, as they say, push them to improve – well, we can’t take credit for that self-initiative, either.

What we can do is to continue focusing the spotlight firmly on the “best of the best.”

In this issue, the culmination of our year-long Top Shop Award program, you’ll notice that we are now seeing the full blooming of the next generation of great tire dealers – business people who are building a new and very different way to sell and service tires and vehicle repair.

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They have new and exciting ideas about how to reach customers and how to establish standards for superior customer service – and ingrain that into their business culture. Sure, they can still spit out the OE size for a mid-2005 Toyota Corolla, but they also can tell you their store’s SEO score, customer service rating on Google, and what percent of customers are willing to “promote” their store to others.

They come up with endearing mascots that leave a positive impression with active buyers while quietly building familiarity among those currently too young to even drive.

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They are bold enough to go old-school with a memorable, high-impact program that reaches more customers more often. Who’d have thought of that?

They are forward thinking enough to fully embrace online and smartphone technology, while tending to down-home values and expectations.

They are sharp enough to know that “unengaged, emotionally unattached associates create disengaged customers,” and that “customers are satisfied when their needs are met, but customers are loyal when expectations are exceeded.”

Scary inventive, extremely effective, so outside of the box you have to ask where the box went. Those are Top Shop Award honorees.

These are the kinds of cutting-edge dealers that deserve recognition. More importantly, we hope their stories will strike a positive chord with all dealers.

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* * * * * *

I’m sure you’ve noticed our new home. New foundation, walls and roof, a sharp-looking front door.

It’s been nearly 13 years since Tire Review was last fully redesigned, though there have been a few tweaks in the intervening years.

Constructing a new building, as many of you know, is no easy task, and it takes a lot of people to pull it all together. Same with a magazine redesign, and I want to recognize our chief designer Nichole Anderson for her efforts and sharp eye, and the rest of the Babcox design team who pitched in to help.

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Their yeoman efforts allowed us to reconsider a little the content and organization of your magazine. Some changes are subtle, others more dramatic. For instance, the familiar color-coding for each section remains, but we have grouped some sections differently. At the same time, we have given greater emphasis to our coverage of tire market segments, vehicle service and, of course, our monthly Top Shop dealer profile.

Hope you like the results.

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