Dealers at Goodyear's annual conference last month in Orlando got sneak peeks at some programs the tire maker is working on in 2004 to make doing business with it easier.
First, the company is working to implement its OTIFNE (On Time, In Full, No Errors) formula to ``raise the bar'' on its fill rates. The second initiative is a Web-based Voice of the Customer feedback form.
Jack Winterton, vice president of replacement tire sales for North American Tire, said the tire maker and customers traditionally have defined fill rates differently, creating a communication gap. The OTIFNE metric is designed to span that gap.
``We set that bar very, very high to make it clear that we will measure fill rates exactly the way (dealers) measure fill rates,'' he told Tire Business.
In addition, Goodyear plans to start offering ship-to promise dates, said Jon Rich, president of North American Tire. The dates would give dealers an idea of when they could expect unavailable tires to arrive.
``No longer will orders go into the endless black hole of back orders,'' Mr. Rich promised dealers, adding that Goodyear has improved its fill rates though there still is work to be done.
Brian Kettering, president of Simon S. Kettering & Sons Inc. in Lebanon, Pa., said 2001 was the low point of Goodyear's fill rates. ``We have seen a gradual increase in availability since then,'' he said.
Mr. Rich told Tire Business data are being collected to begin offering the promise dates. Goodyear is running an internal pilot program, and the service should be rolled out sometime this year.
``We're committed to getting that done as quick as we can this year,'' he said.
Goodyear's Voice of the Customer program also is in its pilot stage, officials said.
Bill Gaudet, a master blackbelt in Six Sigma who spearheaded the project, expects the pilot portion of the project to be complete by the second quarter. Goodyear departments may start responding to customers' problems as soon as April, he said.
So far, the feedback form includes drop-down menus to categorize complaints or suggestions. It will be available to dealers through Tire HQ (though dealers do not have to be on that system to use it), to consumers through Goodyear's Web site and to associates through an internal site.
``Every customer that has access to the Web can share their voice with us,'' he said.
Mr. Gaudet said the program has been in development for only about two months. ``We had a pretty aggressive goal,'' he said.
As part of the pilot, Mr. Gaudet and his team are looking for feedback about the system. Goodyear also is working out exactly how it will organize all the responses, chart out trends for needed changes and respond to problems.
Mr. Gaudet said the program likely will not have a devoted staff to answer questions; instead, the submissions will be routed to the specific department. The customer relations department likely will oversee this process, he said.