NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico—Tire Centers (TCI) L.L.C. President Joe Finney is passionate about customer service and believes that doing the right thing for dealers will keep TCI ahead of the competition.
During TCI's annual dealer meeting/incentive trip Feb. 5-9 in Nuevo Vallarta, Mr. Finney told Tire Business that the main focus of the company's distribution and small tires division is to make its T3 dealer network stronger by improving customer service.
Although a relatively simple concept, Mr. Finney, who spent 16 years at ServiceMaster Co. before coming to TCI in 2005, said many companies have good intentions when it comes to service then fail to satisfy customers when something goes wrong.
“It's so difficult to build a good reputation,” he said. “You can lose it so easily if you're not there when the customer needs you to be there, and that's really what we've centered our customer service systems around. How do we respond at the point of pain when things are starting to go wrong?”
In Nuevo Vallarta Mr. Finney emphasized to 178 dealer couples in attendance just how serious TCI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Michelin North America Inc., is about service by unveiling a new company mission statement: to provide optimal tire services and solutions with a passion for service excellence and creating customer loyalty.
In practical terms, Mr. Finney said TCI is trying to fulfill that mission by uniting all of its employees around it and training them to have the attitude of putting customers' needs before their own self interests. He is having employees sign a pledge of customer service that reflects that attitude.
“There's nothing secret about it, it's just your basic, 'I will do the right thing. I will be honest in my dealings with customers. I will exceed their expectations. I will promptly deal with problems and complaints,'” Mr. Finney explained.
He noted that in the service business there are always issues and complaints from customers, but how well a company responds to grievances determines its success. At TCI, dealers can call a hotline to complain if they feel their local distribution centers aren't servicing them well. Each center is subdivided into regions that follow up on all complaints, Mr. Finney said.
“One of the things I think we do very well is when a customer brings us a problem, we look at it as an opportunity on how we can make a stronger relationship with a customer,” he said.
In its tire deliveries, TCI has worked hard to maintain consistency in delivery times and in building up the inventories that dealers need immediately, he said. In some cities, T3 dealers receive tire deliveries three times a day, while others located farther from a TCI distribution center may be on a longer delivery route but still receive their tires at the same time of day or week, Mr. Finney said.
Jeff Pohlman, owner of Jeff Pohlman Tire & Auto Service, a four-outlet dealership based in Hamilton, Ohio, called TCI's delivery service “excellent” and noted that he gets deliveries twice a day to all his stores, a service he doesn't receive from other distribution centers.
Mr. Pohlman, who also carries Bridgestone, Firestone and Carlisle brands, said that with so many SKUs in the marketplace, he and his T3 dealer colleagues rely on TCI to stock the necessary inventory and get it to their stores fast.
Mark Rinderle, owner of Rinderle Tire Inc. in Milwaukee, said he also receives deliveries from TCI twice a day and can easily get tires fast through online orders to the warehouse. Even his Neosha, Wis., store—which he described as “in the middle of nowhere” and an hour-and-a-half drive from the TCI warehouse—can receive next-day delivery if orders are submitted online.
Aside from the timely deliveries, Mr. Rinderle said he is loyal to TCI because “TCI treats us like family. There's not one person I don't like dealing with.”
TCI has tried to build dealer loyalty through its national buying programs that bring T3 dealers discounts on NAPA auto parts, Interstate batteries, oil and office products from Office Depot, according to Dave Snyder, vice president of TCI's distribution division.
Mr. Snyder said that several dealers have told him that TCI's T3 marketing program saved them thousands of dollars annually on oil changes because of its negotiated prices with Chevron-Texaco on bulk oil.
Mr. Finney, echoing that assessment, said T3 dealers can add three to five margin points to the bottom line if they take advantage of all of TCI's buying programs. The result is “we lose very few customers” from the T3 network, Mr. Finney said.
“That's really the ultimate test,” he added. “You can talk about a program, you can talk about what you do, but the report card is in your customers, if your customers are staying and you're growing as a business.”
TCI currently has 38 distribution centers servicing 65 percent of the market and is planning to open 20 more in 2007, Mr. Finney said.
What kind of investments do you plan to make this year?
|Adding more employees.||
21% (17 votes)
16% (13 votes)
|Upgrading our equipment and/or facilities.||
37% (30 votes)
|Training for employees.||
27% (22 votes)
|Total votes: 82|