LOGAN, W. Va. — Neil Ball worked in the construction equipment sales and rental industry until about six years ago, when he got an unexpected telephone call.
"I actually just got a call one day from a colleague to let me know that EMS Tire Pros had a sales position open," Mr. Ball said.
He interviewed for the job and was hired at the Logan-based tire dealership. For the past two years, he has been manager there.
"I can't say it was something I always wanted to do, but I do enjoy doing it now that I am involved in it," Mr. Ball said. "I would love nothing more than to retire from my current job."
Online tire sales are the biggest challenge Mr. Ball faces as a tire shop manager, and they also represent the biggest change in the business, he said.
It dovetails with the way customers are changing.
"In the last few years, I can definitely see a change in the way customers make decisions on purchasing tires," he said.
"We have expanded our marketing strategies to provide our business with a large online presence, because we are in the age of the Internet now," Mr. Ball said. "We have shifted funding in our marketing budget drastically from local advertising to online advertising."
The social network — emails, Twitter, Facebook — has been a boon to EMS Tire Pros, according to Mr. Ball.
"It has allowed a greater opportunity to communicate with a vast majority of our customer base," he said. "It's definitely affected our business in a positive way, but only because we grasped onto these social media interfaces and went with it."
Mr. Ball said his favorite part of his job is eliminating a customer's safety concerns — sometimes before the customer even knows about it.
"There is nothing more satisfying than having a customer become delighted in knowing that you have brought to their attention a safety concern that they were totally oblivious to," he said.
Inevitably, however, there will be difficult customers. Mr. Ball said he will always do his best to make them happy.
"I always make sure to get all the facts before making any decision," he said. "Nevertheless, I will never argue with the customer, but rather try to listen, analyze and resolve any customer's concerns as quick and painless as possible.
"That's not only for the customer's sake, but for the sake of our business," he said.
Sometimes customers write negative online reviews, and those too involve making the customer happy, Mr. Ball said.
"You engage with a customer's negative review by responding in a public manner that shows empathy and concern for the customer's issue," he said.
"Always reach out to your customer to let them know that you are concerned with whatever issue they may be having, and that you will go above and beyond to resolve it."
Looking ahead to the industry's future, Mr. Ball said he expected electric vehicles to be a game changer.
"I feel that with the direction the global emissions standards are going, non-carbon-producing vehicles will become more and more popular," he said. "That being said, whoever grabs hold of this idea sooner will definitely be ahead of the curve."