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TB EDITORIAL: Use ‘Net for customers’ benefit

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AKRON (May 14, 2014) — A lot of independent tire dealers struggle with how to use the Internet effectively and efficiently in their dealerships.

This is especially true at smaller shops where servicing customers’ vehicles consumes most of the hours in an average working day.

Who has time to figure out how to communicate with customers via email, their smart phones or through social media? It’s enough just to make it through the day and keep track of inventory and accounts receivable, not to mention payroll and cost containment.

So for many dealerships, adding the Internet to their marketing and communications efforts may be a good idea, but more often than not it gets pushed to the back burner for lack of time—or someone well-versed enough to handle the online responsibilities.

Harnessing the Internet and its communication abilities might become a higher priority if dealers looked at its potential impact in another way.

Rather than viewing it, perhaps somewhat grudgingly, as something the dealership should do, think about how its use can help tire consumers communicate with the dealership.

That’s what Mike Upton of Upton Tire Pros in Madison, Miss., did. He had one of those “aha” moments a few years ago when going out to dinner with his sister.

She had booked the restaurant reservation online and it struck him how convenient this was. “You don’t have to call anybody; you don’t have to wait for them to call you back,” he said.

So Mr. Upton asked a local software developer to devise a system that would allow consumers to make online appointments on the dealership’s website. Mind you, this was in Mississippi, not New York City, where one would think online appointment making would be readily accepted.

But Mr. Upton persevered and promoted the online appointments heavily. Acceptance was slow initially, eventually taking off.

Customers liked the ease of making their tire and service appointments online and it allowed the dealership to spread out its car count for a better work flow.

The system has worked so well that in 2013 Upton Tire Pros booked 16,000 appointments online at its four stores in Mississippi. That works out to slightly less than $2 million in revenue, based on the company’s average ticket price of $160.

There’s no reason other dealers can’t emulate Upton Tire Pros. Instead of focusing on how the Internet can help the dealership, think about how it can improve the customers’ experience.

That’s the road to success.

This editorial appears in the May 12 print edition of Tire Business. Do you have an opinion on the views expressed here? Email your comments in a letter to the editor to

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