It's understandable to us that some tire dealers who like to do business the old fashioned way-with a firm handshake and personal customer service-don't have computers in their dealerships. Some don't even have fax machines.
These dealers say they haven't joined the technology age, in part, because they've been successful without such machines for years (so why change?) and because they're concerned that the impersonal computer may weaken the close relationships they've built with their customers. Some admit to even having a fear of computers.
There's no denying these are powerful reasons not to change. Why fix what's not broken?
But computers and a close personal relationship with customers don't have to be mutually exclusive.
In fact, computers and point-of-sale and business management software actually can and do help dealerships stay closer to customers and allow them to provide even better service. It all depends on how effectively a customer service-minded dealer uses the information generated by these software programs.
This issue of Tire Business has lots of stories about the latest in tire industry software and technology and how they can help tire dealers better manage their operations.
Dealers who are not computer-inclined and consider stories about software as stimulating as reading the phone book might not recognize the advantages computerizing their dealerships can have in terms of servicing their customers. But they're there.
Inventory-tracking and online-ordering software, for example, can help dealers make sure they have the proper tires on hand when needed.
Point-of-sale software can gather customers' personal information, record billing and purchases and provide timely reminders of when tires need to be rotated and when service is due.
It also can help dealers serve customers better simply by providing a quick vehicle history so they can speak knowledgeably when suggesting tires and service.
Ideally, the right software should sharpen a dealer's understanding of his or her operation and make the business more effective and productive. In today's competitive tire marketplace, this type of information is invaluable as dealers strive to stay profitable and ahead of the competition-especially if that competition is taking advantage of the latest technology in equipment and software.
Still, whether there's a computer on the service desk or not, all tire dealers should be getting out from behind the counter to shake each customer's hand and find out his or her needs.
Such personal service remains the hallmark of successful independent tire dealers. It just may be that the information generated by a computer/software program will make that job a little easier.