As we peel back the layers of the effects of the coronavirus on every segment of our industry, we see several success stories and silver linings. While the impact has been significant and the implications far-reaching, our industry has demonstrated its resilience in many ways.
Tire dealers, in particular, went full throttle innovating and adapting to curb the effects of COVID-19 on their businesses. With productivity and profitability in the balance, they quickly pivoted from their typical processes to incorporate new safety protocols for both employees and customers, all the while delivering expert tire service and vehicle repairs and keeping customer service levels high.
As a means to share best practices for doing business during the pandemic, Chris Monroe, owner of Monroe Tire & Service in Shelby, NC, organized a Zoom meeting in May with top dealers from across the country. Here we share some takeaways from that “virtual” meeting:
Chris Monroe said early on during statewide shutdowns, he used the extra time wisely to “make a dent in training,” some of which involved TIA training courses. He also improved shop processes and got creative in using video messaging to communicate with customers about his business, and how it was implementing new policies and procedures with their utmost safety in mind.
Chris Mitsos, vice president, Mountain View Tire & Service Inc., with 31 stores throughout Southern California, said the biggest takeaway from dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on his business was that “they were bloated with personnel.” It was a good opportunity, he said, to hit the “reset” button and look for areas where his company could make some necessary cuts.
Scott Welsh, owner of Courtesy Auto Service and Tire with one location in Tacoma, WA, said he is looking at the big picture and playing the long game, while being realistic that he can control only so much during the pandemic. He explained he has amped up communication with his team, paid extra attention to the details and served customers “how you wish to be treated.” Through this process, he realized he had more patience than expected. And, he offered this food for thought: “We are like cats, we land on our feet.”
Steve Nerheim, vice president and COO of Waukegan Tire & Supply Co., with four stores located midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, echoed Monroe’s sentiments about training and taking advantage of educational opportunities during the pandemic. It was also the opportunity to find ways to work smarter and better communicate with employees, he said.
Bud Luppino, owner of Bud’s Tire Pros, with three locations in California, said he and his team used state restriction-related downtime to participate in training and get organized, and he also increased his ad budget by 15%. He said an added emphasis on radio advertising, targeting his stores’ features and benefits, resulted in an immediate uptick in business. On dealing with the “new normal” of doing business during the pandemic, he affirmed: “There is no better group of people to adapt to this than us.”