Tire dealers concerned about a consolidating mining industry and the growth of national accounts business can retain customers and build business by ``making yourselves indispensable to your customers.''
That was the sum and substance of advice given by executives sitting on a panel discussion of industry issues at the recent Tire Association of North America Off-The-Road Conference held on Bermuda.
``Dealers need to emphasize aftermarket service,'' said Tom Walker, global general manager of OTR tires for Goodyear. ``Know your customers,...be an adviser to them.''
While it's true that larger customers tend to leverage their suppliers for better terms, don't forget that ``each location is a relatively small operation in need of services,'' said Dave Cionek, vice president, sales, North and Central America for Michelin North America Inc.'s earthmover group.
Mr. Cionek advised OTR tire dealers to take advantage of all training programs available and to invest in and use a tire tracking system.
Gary Nash, director of OTR sales for Yokohama Tire Corp., said, ``Keep your customers aware of their tires' performance. Emphasize the value of the product.''
As part of a focus on the basics, Jack Fenner, director of dealer sales for Continental Tire North America Inc.'s commercial group, suggested dealers become experts at fleet inspections.
``Dealers must have the courage to charge reasonable prices for services,'' said Manny Cicero, president of Bridgestone/Firestone Off Road Tire Co.
At the same time, though, Mr. Cicero said dealers need to be aware that as customers get larger, they want and expect increasing involvement by their suppliers.
Regarding pricing, Goodyear's Mr. Walker said: ``We strive to make prices `equitable,' but we also have to ask ourselves, `At what cost?'''