ORLANDO, Fla.—Michelin North America is looking to link up electronically with its tire dealer customers with a new intranet service it's developed, called BIB NET. Introduced in January to dealers at Michelin Americas Small Tire's 1997 dealer sales meeting in Orlando, BIB NET is a private Internet system that Michelin will use to communicate with 300 of its most strategic dealers.
``The big advantage for dealers is the ability to get information when they want it,'' according to Tom Hall, manager of Electronic Commerce Development for Michelin North America.
BIB NET was designed using dealer input, Mr. Hall said. It offers live data dealers can access in the areas of order entry, inventory management, claims and dealer support. In addition, dealers will be able to communicate directly with different people at Michelin through electronic mail, commonly known as e-mail.
The goal of BIB NET ``is to take customer service to the next level—that is, the electronic sharing of the most strategic information with our customers,'' Mr. Hall said. "Ultimately, this should allow reduced administrative costs for everyone."
BIB NET will allow dealers to order tires on-line; check on scheduling and back orders; view inventory; receive price books, data books and directories; and obtain information about company marketing and sales programs.
Accessing the system requires no special equipment other than a personal computer, modem and an inexpensive Web browser.
Mr. Hall gave an example of the advantages of on-line electronic commerce.
Currently, when a dealer files a claim, it could take months for it to be resolved and a credit to be issued.
With BIB NET, a claim can be made on line and credit given within 24 hours. ``This will increase the dealers' cash flow,'' Michelin's Mr. Hall said.
Michelin began developing BIB NET in 1995 when it put together a team to work on the project.
The team visited 50 dealerships to learn about their day-to-day business activities and also conducted a number of focus groups.
Dealers from the focus groups suggested 17 business processes they felt would lend themselves to electronic commerce.
Michelin then hired a development firm, Signal Software, and went about building the system.
Last August, the company began testing BIB NET at 11 tire dealerships and tire wholesalers throughout the U.S.
These companies involved in the initial testing included Belle Tire, Boulevard Tire, ITCO, Heafner Tire, Sound Tire, Southern Rubber, Target Tire, Tires Plus, Wheel Works, White Tire and Wholesale Tire.
By the end of February, Michelin had added another 16 dealerships to the program .
The company will continue to roll out the system, adding more dealerships and more features, throughout 1997, according to Mr. Hall.
``The bottom line (in the quest for more tire sales) is whoever offers the best service will win this battle,'' Mr. Hall said. ``This (BIB NET) gives us a leg up on better service.''