Think back, if you can, to a time 15 months ago. Back then, a mask was something worn only at Halloween; a disruption referred to a revolutionary technology or unprecedented change brought about by consumer demand; and pandemic was a term used almost exclusively in those sci-fi movies.
The change we've experienced in the tire and automotive service industry has been, well, disruptive.
Now think ahead, 15 months into the future. What are some of the positive changes that will become the new norm?
Four tire dealers — Eric Gill of Portland, Ore.-based Gills Point S Tire; Darren McLea of McLea's AAA Tire & Automotive Centers of Sonoma County, Calif; and Bill and Kevin Gorman of Barnwell House of Tires Inc. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y. — shared some interesting perspectives during our recent Tire Business livestream, "A Look at COVID-19 One Year Later."
So what are some of the positives that will be part of our future?
While buying and selling tires online and communicating with customers via text and email has been growing in the years preceding the pandemic, it grew exponentially for Gills Point S and McLea tire.
"That is here to stay," Mr. Gill said of online tire commerce. "Operationally, we got used to it. ... As we learned to adapt to that, read computer monitors, it is clear the system is so much smarter than we are," Mr. Gill said.
"Customer communication is all part of online scheduling. Texting and emailing, pictures ... they are here to stay. My hope is to get rid of some paper we've been relying on."
Mr. McLea said he noticed increased online activity, as evidenced by consumers requesting quotes, then ordering the product.
"I like having tires available 24/7," he said. "Having that ability to not be in person, do it at your own pace and feel comfortable doing it, it really helped us. It raised awareness that we have that product available. It's a good thing for our business."
Barnwell House of Tires implemented a new app during the pandemic, which provides for a contactless experience most of their customers require. The app uses a photo instead of a customer signature to finalize a transaction.
"Customers wouldn't let us into their building," Kevin Gorman said. "We had to drop (tires) off in the street, a parking lot, to meet them with no touch. (The app) helped get employees and customers to adopt. It was definitely a learning curve, with a picture changing how we did things. It will be good for us in the long run because of how we did that."