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Published on April 23, 2007

Differentiate from competitors

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Opinion

AKRON (April 23, 2007) — How does your dealership stack up against today's growing number of automotive and tire service providers?


It's a question all tire dealers should ask themselves regularly to determine what the competition's doing in an increasingly tough, fast-changing retail and service environment. And don't limit such comparisons to the tire and automotive service businesses. Ideas can come from any industry or profession—even a dentist's office.


Today, it's not enough to offer top-notch service and low, competitive prices—that's basically a prerequisite for staying afloat in any business. Tire and auto service providers must do things that make them stand out from the crowd—that give them an advantage in the growing clutter of businesses looking to capture the tire and auto service dollar.


This is becoming even more crucial as service opportunities decline for today's cars and trucks, which are built better and require less frequent service maintenance, and as more outlets, including car dealerships, get into the retail tire business. Longer vehicle warranties are shaking up the pecking order for vehicle service, tying vehicles to car dealerships for longer periods of time for work that likely would have gone to independent repair shops after the warranties expired.


What can tire dealers do? Consider car dealership John Holtz Acura in East Rochester, N.Y. Instead of letting customers simply leave after having their vehicles fixed, the firm first invites them to make another service appointment in three months, similar to what happens when visiting a dentist's office. In fact, that's where the idea came from. The dealership interviewed local dentists to find out the best way to contact and schedule customers.


Now Holtz Acura pre-schedules service appointments. The result: Improved customer loyalty and service advisers freed up for other duties. That's helped sell bigger, costlier service tickets.


Tire dealers and other independent repair shops should take a page from that playbook, or come up with their own creative ways of attracting customers and keeping them from going to the competition.


They care


Stories in Tire Business often involve ways tire dealerships can improve profits and sales in this ever-competitive industry.


So it's refreshing to spotlight companies that focus on things just as important—and set themselves apart from competitors—by helping people in their communities.


Boyd's Goodyear Tire & Service in Columbus, Ohio, is a great example. For the past couple of years the seven-outlet retail dealership has reached out to the needy by hooking up with a local radio station that runs a program offering assistance to selected persons.


When a candidate needs a vehicle repaired, the radio station calls on Boyd's, which usually provides the parts and services free or through donations from suppliers.


Boyd's Westerville, Ohio, outlet has provided thousands of dollars worth of repairs—for a single mom who needed to transport her handicapped children for medical treatments; for a woman driving to her dialysis appointments; and for an elderly woman who provides rides for seniors at a retirement center.


And it has garnered massive free publicity and admiration. That has come not only from the radio program but also from recent news stories spotlighting the new truck Boyd's acquired and prepped to replace the broken down truck of a local Good Samaritan who has, for years, helped other people.


But Boyd's Tire General Manager Jim Thomas said that's not the reason the dealership is involved in the program. Donating hours and services to worthy causes may not necessarily help increase sales or bolster profits. But it does offer something more important than what can be conveyed in a financial report—the morale boost and personal gratification the entire dealership staff gets from helping those in need.

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