Many tire dealerships have implemented “touchless” tire service programs in response to COVID-19. Logan, Utah-based Associated Tire Stores pioneered the concept nearly 10 years ago, according to Christie Stock, the dealership’s president.

“We don’t have tires inside of our stores,” says Stock, who oversees 13 busy locations in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. (The stores in Wyoming – nine in all - operate under the Plains Tire banner. The others operate under the Discount Tire & Automotive Service name.)

Associated Tire Stores' app lets customers shop for tires, schedule appointments and pay for service. The dealership is promoting the app more than ever.

Associated Tire Stores' app lets customers shop for tires, schedule appointments and pay for service. The dealership is promoting the app more than ever.

The dealership’s sales associates, digital tablets in hand, greet customers when they pull into the stores’ parking lots. “We have the ability to create tickets and do everything outside.”

Several years ago, the company rolled out a proprietary smartphone app that customers can use to shop for tires and schedule appointments.

“They also can access their car’s service history, they can add or delete vehicles, they can get text notifications when their car is done, they can pay through the app and if they get caught on the side of the road, they can press a button and we’ll send a driver out to them.”

The interiors of the dealership’s stores do not include traditional tire displays. Sales associates and customers instead access tire information via several prominently displayed flatscreens.

“We call it the Digital Tire Store of the Future,” says Stock. “And what a blessing it’s been to have had that technology in place – and the fact that our customers are so used to it. We felt this put us in a good position when COVID-19 hit.”

Associated Tire Stores has always strived to “stay eight to 10 years ahead of the curve.”

Stock credits her father, Larry Nicholls, who founded the company in 1976, for helping to maintain its cutting-edge position.

“He travels the world and looks at different industries and has come back year after year with ideas that businesses around the world are implementing.”

‘All you have are your people’

“Our number-one priority has been the health and safety of our customers and employees – making sure everything we are doing puts their physical and mental health first,” says Stock.

“We have a pick-up and delivery option that customers can request when they call us or contact us through our app. We have face shields for all of our employees, so they and our customers feel safe when they come into our stores. We are limiting customers to 10 (in each store) at all times and we have stickers that show them where to stand.”

Stock and her team also ship care packages “that have cleaning supplies in them” to stores once a week.

“Our employees clean the stores every hour on the hour and the disinfect after every customer,” she notes.

The dealership is holding weekly Zoom calls with employees. “I recently did my very first Zoom with every employee of our company. I wanted to talk to them myself so they could see me and I could see them

“We’re very spread-out – up to nine hours away” at the company’s furthest-flung stires.

“We told them, ‘Your health is number-one. We want to take care of you. We don’t want you to worry about your pay or your hours. If you’re sick, we want you to stay home – and we’re still going to pay you.’

“At the end of the day, all you have are your people. If you take care of them, everything else falls into place.”

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