As every business owner and consumer knows, computers, smartphones and similar devices constantly need updatingwhether for faster program-ming or for better-performing apps.
The updates are vital to improving services and functionality and to keep computer and phone customers from becoming frustrated with outdated softwareor from trading in their current product simply for one that looks more exciting or happens to be a competitors' latest offering.
It's part reality and part perception. Consumers like products delivering the latest in technology, and they like to patronize companies they perceive as cutting-edge businesses.
While the tire industry and independent tire dealerships never will be viewed in the same category as hi-tech firms such as Apple Inc. or Google Inc., many tire industry firms are making noticeable progress in this area.
So much so that dealers who are not looking for ways to update their technology and equipment could find themselves falling behind in the race to stay competitivein perception and in reality.
Consider Sears Automotive Centers, for example. In an effort to revitalize its automotive service business, old-line retailer Sears Holdings Co. has spent the past few years upgrading its auto centers with new equipment and technology. Now it's kicking off a redesign of its more than 750 auto centers in the U.S.
A signature component of this project is the installation of flat-screen, digital menu boards in the centers' showrooms, waiting and service areas.
The menu boards allow Sears to advertise services offered, sales and pricing, as well as to recognize top-performing associates. The silent boards also contain information that customer service personnel can call up to help explain work that will be performed on a customer's vehicle.
The menu boards are one way Sears is telling its customers that it's in tune with the latest service technology.
Out in the service bays, the need for updating and employing new technology is equally crucial.
Dealers should take time to assess whether their older equipment and tools remain effective in servicing today's vehiclesor if they are costing them in terms of labor hours, accuracy and reputation.
Technology is constantly changing the capabilities of automobiles, tires and shop equipment. The rapid pace of technological advances has conditioned consumers to expect more for their money.
Can your shop equipment align the latest model-year vehicles easily and accurately and balance the new low-profile tires? Are your techs equipped with the necessary tools to service tire pressure monitoring systems? Can your tire changers protect alloy rims? Do your customers know this?
Now is the time to take a realistic look at your dealership or auto service shop, from a customer's perspective, to see if your shop is one that shouts: We've got the latest equipment to service today's vehicles.