Does any of the following sound familiar to you? “No one is going to put their credit card information on the internet.” “Buying tires online is a hassle. You have to wait a week to even get the tires.” This is what tire buyers — and maybe even you — were saying years ago. All of that has changed.
Today, more tire buyers than ever browse online first and an increasing number of them would like to pay for those tires before they schedule installation.
Years ago, online retailers believed they could sell things super-cheap because they didn’t have to pay for a brick-and- mortar building.
As e-commerce has matured, hidden costs and the need for constant updates in technology have proven that it’s nearly as expensive to run e-tail as it is traditional retail. The “internet is cheaper” bubble has burst.
What has taken its place? The desire for convenience.
Convenience in 1970 was a catalog delivered to your front door.
Convenience in 1980 was a huge mall where every store you could imagine was housed in the same building.
Convenience in the late-1990s was access to the world through blazing, high-speed DSL lines.
Convenience today? Doing things on your schedule, when it’s easy.
And convenience never comes cheap. A regular synthetic oil change at a typical auto service center or tire store might cost $50 and could take an hour or more to complete. At a quick lube? Same oil and same filter but the job is done in 20 minutes — and many times, for more money.
I am here to convince you to put your tire prices online and to not be the cheapest.
I have met many dealers who are hesitant to put their prices online for fear of being shopped. This could happen. But by not putting your prices online, you don’t exist online.
If you don’t show up when a customer goes online to compare pricing, you’re not even in the game.
It’s better to lose a handful of super cost-conscious consumers than to not even get a shot at servicing a bigger group.
Your online prices need to be competitive. I’m sure you can find at least one tire line that will enable you to hang with bigger operations, price-wise.
But don’t get caught up in matching everyone’s cheapest price. It’s a fool’s errand. There will always be a customer or a group of customers who will demand the “cheapest” thing. And that’s OK. Focus on what you’re offering.
Make sure you craft your online message to be one of convenience, such as ‘Tires installed in under an hour with appointment.’
By not putting your prices online, you don’t exist online.
Offer priority service for online appointments. Give customers the option of booking their appointments as early as 7 a.m. or as late as 5 p.m.
Whatever the specific message is, that’s up to you. But make sure you use a bullhorn to blast out the proclamation that your business is all about convenience.
“Convenience” is the natural counterproposal to “cheap.” A customer’s time is worth a lot, so they are usually willing to trade for it by paying higher prices.
Now here’s the hard part: You have to back up your online claims.
Can your employees handle a priority appointment when your dealership is getting slammed with walk-ins?
What if the customer decides to change their mind on the brand of tire they chose as they are handing the keys over?
Does your team know how to change gears, and more importantly, do they know where that extra gear is when things get really crazy?
That takes a specific attitude, and it takes real training and education.
The employee must bring to the table the instinct that they are there to serve others and make them happy — and that challenges are just opportunities to show how good they really are.
The training part requires that you, as the dealership’s owner, invest in the right tools to do the job. And you have to understand shop processes, too.
For instance, do you know that the most time-consuming thing your employee does on the tire changer is airing it up? If you figure out how to air tires up off the machine, you can greatly reduce installation time.
Lastly, you need to develop good, formal training on processes, problem solving and critical thinking for your team.
A lot of customers will happily pay for convenience.
I encourage you to seize this segment.
But you must do so in the right way and back up your claims with a good staff and an excellent game plan, each and every day. ■
Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers, a leading broker in the tire and automotive industry (www.cardinalbrokers.com). To contact McCarron, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.