Any independent tire dealer will tell you that repeat business is crucial to the long-term success of his or her dealership.
So it was somewhat surprising to see that a recent survey of consumer tire buying habits conducted by Advo Inc., a large direct mail marketing services company, suggests that dealers could be doing more to capture and retain a larger share of customers.
While the survey didn't come right out and say this, if you examine the results, they point to an area where dealers can increase the number of repeat customers at their dealerships.
How? Simple: by doing a better job of communicating with them.
Not surprisingly, Advo found that more than half (57 percent) of the 294 consumers responding to its survey selected the outlet where they made their most recent tire purchase because they had dealt with the store before. And another 30 percent said they were referred to the store.
That's the good news. And it confirms what many dealers already know: They have a lot of loyal customers.
But when those same respondents were asked whether the dealership had contacted them after the purchase to ask about their satisfaction with the store or the service provided, 70 percent said they hadn't.
Considered by itself, this finding would not appear to be much of an issue.
But the picture looks somewhat different when this result is combined with another finding from the Advo survey-that 60 percent of respondents viewed auto service establishments as ``about all the same.''
That's not what independent tire dealerships want to hear. And it seems to indicate that tire dealers, despite boasting a large percentage of repeat customers, still are considered by many tire buyers as indistinguishable from other types of retail tire outlets.
And that's where an opportunity presents itself.
Tire dealers have a unique story to tell about professionalism, tire knowledge and a do-whatever-it-takes service mentality that truly is distinctive from the competition. But dealers, at least based on this survey, still need to do a better job getting the word out.
So why not try contacting customers after they've had their vehicles in for new tires or service? With most dealerships providing computerized billing, generating a follow-up mailing-or, for that matter, e-mailing-to determine customer satisfaction after a recent repair or purchase visit shouldn't be too difficult.
For those dealerships looking to boost repeat business and make their outlets stand out from the crowd, a little post-service communication with customers is not only a good idea, but in today's competitive climate, it's become a necessity.