Reassuring and Serving Customers Suffering From Sticker Shock - Tire Review Magazine

Reassuring and Serving Customers Suffering From Sticker Shock

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would own a BMW one day. Call it fate, call it kismet, karma…whatever. I’ve had my eye on that propeller badge since infancy and nothing could stop me from buying that car.

Well, almost nothing. 

I put off ownership of a small BMW for years because I couldn’t afford the upkeep. It’s not that I’m cheap, far from it, but maintenance charges for even minor services can empty a fellow’s wallet. Research and education is key when buying any car – especially one with sporting intentions.   

My first job out of high school was as a parts counterman and delivery person at a BMW dealership outside of Baltimore. I was in heaven until the general manager of the dealership asked me to park my Chrysler Cordoba out back on the first day. Way out back. In fact, I was asked to park beyond the dumpster and next to the parts vans. I may have had sporting aspirations, but my hate tank would have to do for the time being.

Embarrassed, I wheeled my beast (replete with “rich Corinthian leather”) into the nether regions of the lot and got back to work. Even though I would learn to appreciate the GM’s approach to my ugly car situation later in life, parking that car out back did a lot to steel my resolve to work hard so I could live comfortably enough to buy a car that I wouldn’t have to park out back. 

I wanted a BMW.

I studied the car and dreamt – and soon learned that just about every nut and bolt on the car costs four to five times what a domestic part seemed to cost. Oil filters were nearly $20 (in 1992!), and exhaust systems or body parts…fuggedaboudit. 

Tires were also a big shocker. At the time, I didn’t know a steel-belted radial from a bias ply, and I knew even less about what made a low-profile tire stick to the road so well – or cost so much. 

The point is, I learned. I learned why cars perform how they do, and what it is that makes them special. I was eventually able to afford the car of my dreams, but not until I was prepared with the right information, and not until I had saved up enough money to do the deal. And keep the car up to snuff.

Broken Dreams?
We all face price situations such as this – especially in the tire business. Sometimes there are plenty of consumers out there – money in hand and ready to buy – but some honestly have no idea why one tire would cost more than another, or why some tires must be fitted on special machines that protect their wheels.

If I had a dime for every time I heard a new car owner say they were shocked at the price of new tires I would have a lot of dimes. 

What can we do to solve this problem? No one wants to be the bad guy in that situation. The fact is we are here to sell tires and, unfortunately, while many consumers are researching things like a new car’s safety rating or its horsepower, its emissions or mileage, they are not, by and large, researching the cost of wearables on their new vehicles. Tires, brakes, clutches, belts – these things wear, and they must be replaced in order to maintain a safe vehicle that will deliver the performance consumers expect. 

Complicating matters are manufacturers’ maintenance warranties that may include some or all of the aforementioned wearables. Once a car owner has had an opportunity to drive a vehicle’s tires down to their wear indicators, they should be intimately familiar with the replacement costs of a new set of tires and a good four-wheel alignment. 

But that is not likely, and therein lays the rub.

We’ve all been there: A customer stops in to replace worn tires on a relatively newer car, and nearly succumbs to sticker shock. 
“What the…?”
“How in the world do they expect us to…?”
“Are you serious?”
Yes. Quite. 

The Good and Bad
There is good news and bad news for consumers who must replace worn OE HP and UHP tires. The good news is that advances in compounds, radial structure strength, run-flat technology and ultra-high performance are here. It seems that all those years of manufacturers baying “continuous quality improvement” while pouring money into their R&D programs has netted a substantial increase in the quality, durability and performance of the automobile and truck tire.  

The bad news is that all that technology costs money. And, it is the “bad” news that most consumers focus on as their brains scramble to find a less expensive solution to their replacement tire predicament. 

In a perfect world, each of us would have plenty of time, patience and willing consumers handy to explain the ins and outs of tire innovation, the global economy and the development of powerful vehicles capable of higher sustainable speeds than ever before. 
We could explain that all these things have come together to bring cutting-edge tires to market – and that all that “cutting-edgeness” costs more than it used to.

The fact is we have less and less time to explain these things thanks to shorter attention spans, frustration and misunderstanding, and the wrong-headed thinking that just about everyone in the auto business is trying to take advantage of consumers. It is difficult to face down all these things, especially with a consumer waiting for answers, and looking to leave your shop in about five seconds. 

First, remember to smile. Put your customer at ease. You obviously aren’t in business to rip anyone off, but playing into a frustrated customer’s agitation will do nothing but help you lose business.

Second, listen carefully to what your customer’s needs are. While true that we are in the tire business, we certainly don’t want to intimidate our potential customer. Listen to him/her and what they are trying to accomplish. Are they shopping on price? Are they shopping on performance? You might be surprised with the answers.

Third, it is important to be intimately knowledgeable about your product lines and the new products being developed by your manufacturers. Know what the OE fitments are, and know the OE, replacement, high quality, high-performance tires that are available, just as you should know what lower cost options are available. Having answers and options at the ready does a lot to ease a customer’s mind, and will ultimately help you seal the deal. 

Finally, make the customer feel good about his/her purchase decision, and for choosing your shop. Everyone likes to feel smart, and the smarter someone feels for coming to your dealership, the more likely they are to be quality customers for life and to recommend your shop to friends and family. 

Quite literally, educating your customers sometimes means pulling them back from the edge as you might while controlling a car on a high performance tire test.

Subtle movements, minor corrections and an unwavering eye on the objective will help you successfully navigate price objections just as they will get you through that tough corner.

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