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‘The consumer is the boss’

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‘The consumer is the boss’

John Baratta recently told independent tire dealers in North Carolina that on any given day, 5,500 tire-buying customers will visit their stores. However, another 3,500 won’t, choosing instead to go to car dealerships or other competitors.

Speaking to members of the North Carolina Tire Dealers Association, Baratta, president of consumer replacement tire sales for Bridgestone Americas Tires Operations LLC, outlined how they can do a better job of capturing that business.

“We all have to recognize as independent retailers that the consumer is the boss,” he said. “They control our future. And customers are not willing to wait for their tires.”

There are three “moments of truth” that every retailer faces, said Baratta.

  1. The first impression. “Trust is the number one factor the consumer is looking for. Building trust is key to earning the customer’s business. That is the area that if you excel in, you will win. Having a well-educated, consultative advisor team will allow you to stand out versus your competition.”
  2. Post-sale. Will the customer rate his or her overall experience as positive, negative or somewhere in-between? “Our responsibility is to meet or exceed their expectations,” said Baratta. Monitoring consumer behavior — and reacting accordingly — is a necessary part of doing business.
  3. Initial research. Expectations occur before a consumer ever enters your door, he said. According to Google, 70% of Americans look at product reviews online. In addition, 79% of consumers say they use smartphones to help with shopping. “How your business is displayed online is very important.”

As Internet usage increases, customer relations management is even more critical, said Baratta. “You need to manage your online reputation properly,” he told the attendees. “If you react to a negative online review about your company quickly enough, you can turn it into a positive.”

Independent dealers have plenty of opportunity to succeed, he said. “There are more than 40 different manufacturer- and marketer-based distribution programs and 347 brands at play.”   ■


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