AKRON (March 3, 2015) — What a winter! Not only has the northern U.S. been hit with snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, road surfaces now look like the aftermath of a blitzkrieg.
Tire dealers and their staffs are having a tough enough time trudging their way into their shops in the mornings — only to be greeted by grumpy, cranky customers who have better ways to spend their money and time than getting their vehicles repaired.
Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning lights are aglow on customers' dashboards — lit up by the lack of tire air pressure caused by the extended drops to below-freezing temperatures. Wheels and tires have been damaged by cavernous potholes, and packed snow and ice in wheel wells have turned smooth-running cars and light trucks into violently vibrating machines as they travel down craterous roads.
What's a tire dealer to do? One suggestion is to buck up and look at these situations as genuine opportunities to salve customers' frayed nerves — and perhaps make additional sales.
While it may seem daunting to turn such situations into positive experiences, especially when it's freezing outside, progressive tire dealerships know that a warm smile, calm voice and a can-do attitude can turn negative outlooks into positives. It's all about old-fashioned, beyond the call-of-duty customer service — a key trait of the independent tire dealer.
Customers overall haven't been happy coming into Barry Steinberg's Direct Tire & Auto Service locations in the Watertown, Mass., area this winter, especially when they arrive via tow trucks, he said. “We try to smooth it over the best we can and try to give people the best deal we can to sort of make them a little happier.”
Fellow New Englander Spencer Carruthers of Kenwood Tire & Auto also does his best to soften the blow of replacing damaged wheels, like offering remanufactured replacements when possible.
Handling hundreds of inquiries concerning TPMS lights have become commonplace for tire dealerships this winter in the northern U.S. That has required calming customers' concerns and checking air pressure, which can drop like a snowball in the frigid temps.
When customers call about vibrations, many dealers have offered to clean out the wheel wells of packed snow — the usual culprit.
As tire dealers address the fast-moving changes taking place in tire retailing, including the growth in online tire sales, its worth remembering that it's their exceptional customer experience that creates loyalty — not low prices and tires delivered by mail.
Service like how the staff at Paul Buckheit's All Tire & Service in Staten Island, N.Y., welcome the reluctant customer even before he or she walks through the doors.
Or the team at Discount Tire in Parma, Ohio, (see Tire Business Reporter Jennifer Karpus' blog) where the staff goes the extra mile, such as dropping off the keys to a customer still at a beauty salon after the work on her car has been done.
Tire dealers, remember your roots and never underestimate the simple power of a smile to break the ice with a frosty customer — even after digging out your own vehicles from a snowdrift.
This editorial appears in the March 2 print edition of Tire Business. Have an opinion on it? Email a letter to the editor or your comments to [email protected].