AKRON (Nov. 17, 2014) — It's a phrase that, while normally referring to the political game, also holds a sweet spot for tire dealers and auto service shops.
No doubt you've heard it said that “all politics is local.”
It's a phrase in U.S. politics most closely associated with Tip O'Neill, former Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House during the Reagan Administration. The legendary pol uttered it to explain the principle that the success of a politician is usually directly tied to his or her ability to understand and influence the issues that are near and dear to the hearts — and yes, wallets — of constituents.
In a small way, I was a witness recently to that “local” aspect of the tire business as it tied into that other oft-uttered phrase, “It's a small world.”
As I sat in the small waiting area of a local tire dealership while a new set of tires was installed on my car out in the crowded parking lot, the phone rang repeatedly. It was probably one of the last few spurts of still-nice weather before the season's impending first blast of snow and frigid weather, and like many of the procrastinators buzzing in on the dealership's phone, I was waiting for some improved traction for my buggy.
While I can't quote verbatim the dealership owner's conversations handling the non-stop phone inquiries, I noticed he spent a little more time on one of the calls — beyond just glancing at the appointment book and noting for the caller some still-available times for tire installations and routine maintenance.
That particular call went something like:
“Can you bring your car in on Tuesday at 10 o'clock? Great.
“What's your name?
“Oh, really? Do you have a brother by the name of ___?”
The conversation on the non-heard end of the call apparently acknowledged the link.
“And don't you have a sister by the name of ___? I think I went to school with her.”
More casual conversation about what the sister was now doing. Then:
“Oh, I'm sorry to hear that,” he said in response to another comment by the caller.
“Well, nice meeting you. It was great talking with you. We'll look forward to seeing you Tuesday. Take care.”
A snippet of small-world conversation that may have helped accomplish more for that dealership than the lasting fragrance of a job well done. Or, at its basest denominator, a cheaper price than the shop down the street with the big chain's name hanging on its signpost.
It was yet another example of how all business is indeed local, how a few kind words or a casual conversation with a potential customer can turn a cold call into a lasting relationship.
I have no way of knowing if that caller visited the dealership and was “wowed” by the service, though if how I was treated is any indication, they picked up a long-term customer by taking the time to personalize what could have been strictly a sales pitch about the best tires for the customer's vehicle.
Sure, the shop was very busy. But did those few extra moments the owner took to talk with a potential customer put a crimp in the machine-like operation of the store? Did his action possibly deter other callers? I doubt it.
It's that personal touch that takes only a few moments but can solidify in a customer's mind that you run a friendly local tire dealership — and you care not only about that person's vehicle, but his or her wellbeing and safety. It doesn't take much, but it certainly can set a business apart from the competition.
I know it impressed me.
Tire Business Managing Editor Sig Mikolajczyk will now admit he should have replaced the tires on his vehicle LAST winter. But then, maybe this blog wouldn't have evolved if he had.