By Ed Koczan, Special to Tire Business
INDIANAPOLIS — As a sales manager and trainer for a tire manufacturer, I have called upon the range of good, bad and ugly when it comes to retailers selling their wares -- and themselves.
From a 900+ store national chain, to new car dealerships, to numerous two-bay, “mom-and-pop” tire and auto repair centers, I have seen the range of customer care in the tire and automotive business.
After observing on all those levels what truly sets great customer care apart from the mediocre when it comes to automotive and tire retailers, I have deduced that the answer is: “Very little.”
Very little in the amount of EFFORT that is needed to truly create what I'd call a “WOW” factor in a world of commodity product sales, where the sizzle of a “sexy” product is pretty limited by the function of the actual product — the black-and-round tire. Unlike a washing machine with steam functions, add-on pedestals and bold colors, or unlike the appeal of the new-car smell, few people seem to get excited by the new-tire smell.
A study done by Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. several years ago found that the actual effort needed to be undertaken for its brand to be perceived as superior to the competition was a mere 10 percent.
Could your retail operation do something just 10-percent better than your competition? If not, maybe you should consider getting out of the business.
So, how can your employees demonstrate a superior experience for very little cost?
The answer is simple: You need to show your customers that you care. A time-tested adage in the sales game is that your goal should first be to show a customer that you and/or your store cares. After all, a customer needs to buy you before he or she buys your product.
Encourage your people to make customers' experiences with your business easy, and show patrons that they can expect to be well taken care of. This is as simple as encouraging your sales staff to join the customer at his or her vehicle for a pre-sale walk-around inspection.
Then magnify the effort by a factor of 10 by letting the customer see your salesperson take a red shop rag and wipe off fingerprints from the door handle. Offer your customer a bottle of water by getting one for him or her -- instead of pointing to a machine “over there.”
As for your facility, I offer two words: Free Wi-Fi.
Let's face it, providing a good-quality retail service experience isn't that difficult. After all, you can do just 10-percent better, right? That is — very little.
Ed Koczan is an Indianapolis-based regional sales manager for Nexen Tire Corp. He covers Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and western Pennsylvania for the company, and has provided product sales and training for dealers and partners since 2013. He began his career in the automotive industry in the mid-1990s, worked for Tire Rack for about six years, then left to serve as a police officer in South Bend, Ind., for nine years, where he also did website design and blogging for the department. He left there in 2011 to take a job with Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.