It is so important today that your customers’ total service “experience” is positive—from start to finish. From the moment they make an appointment, pull into your lot, walk through your doors, are greeted by your service advisor and contacted for necessary repairs, to picking up and paying for their vehicle service, every aspect must elicit the value proposition that represents your dealership’s business model. During every single touchpoint with customers, you need to cultivate a feeling of satisfaction that turns into a commitment of lasting loyalty.
And, in today’s fragile economy, overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, that requirement is more important than ever. The efforts you make in winning over customers will be the catalyst that carries you through an economic downturn.
Before you can sell customers on your value proposition, you have to first get their attention. How exactly are dealers attracting new customers? Do they mostly advertise or does word-of-mouth keep new customers coming to their stores?
Tire Review reached out to two prominent dealers—one a Top Shop winner and the other a dealership that’s been in business for more than 100 years—to share what they had to say.
“We do advertise utilizing social media, radio and direct mail predominantly. We have also been using Groupon as a way to generate traffic,” says John Ziegler, Jr., vice president of Ziegler Tire, headquartered in North Canton, OH, with 23 locations in four states (Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). “Word of mouth is still our most effective way to attract new customers and we are grateful for so many loyal customers over the last 100 years and multiple generations who have passed on our reputation for honesty and great service.”
Bill Ziegler, Ziegler Tire president, chimes in: “I agree, we do the ‘normal’ advertising, but our reputation and word of mouth is the most important asset we have to get our message out. We also do a great amount of community and local involvement to promote our brand.”
Alpio Barbara, owner of Redwood General Tire in Redwood City, CA, and the 2019 winner of the Tire Review Top Shop competition, agrees on the value of multimedia advertising and getting involved in your community, and says he uses Facebook and Yelp, as well as upscale magazines in the local area to advertise to customers and prospects.
Value Over Price
What is the best way for a dealership to showcase the features and benefits of its services to new customers, so that they can see the value over price, and then become repeat customers?
“We feel the main features and benefits of our services boils down to one main thing, and that is our people and the way they communicate that we are here to take care of whatever [our customers] need,” says John Ziegler, Jr. “A clean store and nice displays help, but it’s the interaction between our people and our customers that sets us apart in my opinion.”
Barbara advises to educate customers about your entire service package, saying: “We explain everything we offer in our store, not just tires as our name states, but other services such as oil changes, diagnostics, mechanical services, alignments, etc.” Quality time is also spent answering customer questions and offering solutions to get to the root cause of the problem—whether they are tire-related questions or mechanical, adds Barbara. “Customers have peace of mind that they brought their vehicle to the right place because they’re going to be well taken care of and treated like family.”
Despite dealers’ efforts to show customers the depth of their offerings, many still shop on price—those who are just looking for a quick fix and won’t be repeat customers. So, what’s the best way to handle price-shopping customers?
“Not everyone has the resources to be able to repair their car or put a full set of tires on their car for whatever reason. Our job is to do whatever is necessary to fulfil their needs based on what they are capable of, keeping their safety as the main goal,” says John Ziegler, Jr.
Bill Ziegler echoes similar sentiments: “The most important thing we can do is get the customer into our store and show them what we can do and how our employees respond to their concerns.”
Ziegler Tire also puts an emphasis on reassuring customers that they are in good hands.
“I guess we have been able to stay in business for 100 years by letting our customers know we will back up everything we do for them,” notes John Ziegler, Jr. “For example, for any tire a customer purchases we will rotate, rebalance and check air pressure for free for the life of the tire. If they get the maximum life out of their tire investment, we have done our job and they will come back to us.”
One way to help customers understand your dealership’s value proposition is to spend time reviewing services with them, explains Barbara. “We go into depth on what we did and what you can do to prevent expensive repairs …[promoting] regular oil changes, tire rotations, check your alignment once a year, and the like. We never turn a customer away and do as much as we can to try and make sure they ask us again for a price on services….[because] I believe once they come into Redwood General Tire they will be repeat customers.” In a nutshell, Redwood General Tire offers a customer “experience” that Barbara says ensures complete customer satisfaction.
John Ziegler, Jr. couldn’t agree more. “Thankfully, our parts and tire manufacturers provide excellent maintenance tools that we can review with our customers. They are user-friendly, and our trained staff strives to relay maintenance information in a way that our customers understand and learn from. Value really is the key word here. It is not always the monetary price of the tires and service that we provide, but the reassurance from Ziegler Tire that we back up everything our customers purchase from us.”
Staying ‘Top of Mind’
Making your customers’ experience at your shop “memorable” is also key. How can tire dealerships make their business stand out in customers’ minds?
Beyond offering high-quality repairs, educating customers and employing top-notch techs, Barbara is big on making a great first impression and providing customers with an ideal environment to relax or get work done while they’re waiting for their vehicle. His “very comfortable showroom” offers a large-screen TV, massage chairs, business workstations, a coffee and water station, sports memorabilia collection and more to keep customers engaged.
John Ziegler, Jr. says he doesn’t have a magic formula that makes his business stand out other than his staff treating their customers honestly and trying to have fun every day and with every customer experience. “A lot of our managers have been with us for a long time and even the new ones know how important it is to have a relaxed environment whenever customers come into a Ziegler Tire location for service. Maybe not as laid back as walking into Cheers like Cliff and Norm did and the reception they got, but similar from the standpoint of feeling welcome and appreciated. We must always remember we are not in the tire business selling people, we are in the people business selling tires.”
Look Sharp, Be Sharp
Both dealerships agree on the importance of shop appearance and employee attire and their impact into making customers’ experience a great one.
“We have had our employees in uniforms for 30 years,” says Barbara. “Our sales team has different colored shirts for every day of the week so when our customers come in, they know who they need to go to…Our tire techs have a different uniform from our mechanical techs so our customers also see that we are a trained team.”
John Ziegler, Jr. also recognizes the impact that his techs have on making customers feel welcome. “We have always tried to have technicians who are experienced, well trained and personable—with a great attitude being first and foremost.” Beyond having solid leadership from great managers to run an efficient shop, John says that a store’s success also hinges on the ability of hard-working technicians who can discuss the condition of customer’s vehicle in a way they understand. “We have the finest equipment to service vehicles and insist on uniformed friendly technicians,” he adds.
“Our newest store [in North Canton, OH] is quite distinctive and was designed for an improved customer experience,” adds Bill Ziegler. “Our employees are our biggest asset. Buildings and equipment can be easily acquired, but we need to continue to find the best people.”
When you take the time to analyze every aspect of your business model like these dealership owners have, to actively take steps to deliver the highest level of value and service, you will exceed expectations and set the stage for turning customers into life-long supporters.
Impact of Technology on Your Value Proposition: Think Ferrari!
The following is courtesy of Chris Monroe, owner, Monroe Tire and Service, Shelby, NC.
Are you utilizing 100% of your current shop management software? Most shops don’t use their current system to its full potential. You wouldn’t drive a Ferrari on a racetrack at 30 mph, so why would you run your software system at anything less than full throttle?
Most systems can help you with price matrixing, marketing, history, deferred services, maintenance reminders, service advisor prompts (that recommend profitable services), scheduling, reporting/analytics, inventory…and the list goes on.
Where do you start? Contact your software provider to set up an analysis of “how” your business is currently using your software and discover areas that go under-utilized. This is the first step when looking for ways to become more profitable. The second, and most important, step is to pull the trigger! Execute and try it out. Make yourself uncomfortable in learning something new and training your team with the process. You will be amazed at the results.
Check out the rest of the April digital edition of Tire Review here.