Retail Service

How to motivate your customers

Order Reprints
How to motivate your customers

I have spoken with thousands of today’s consumers and mystery shopped hundreds of tire dealers, restaurants, hotels and other service businesses. I have come to realize there are many things that motivate why people buy and why they do not buy from retail tire businesses.

That being said, I have summarized my experiences and come up with a Top 10 “don’t” list and a Top 10 “do” list.

When consumers don’t buy from a retail tire store

  1. Lack of trust. They do not instinctively trust you. The staff does not listen to the customer. This reason varies because most retail counter salespeople only ask one qualifying question: “What is your tire size?” Many times, it is difficult to listen to a consumer unless you ask a few qualifying questions. Today’s consumers want to be heard. When they feel like they have been heard, they will trust you. When you ask questions, the consumer perceives that you are trying to “help” them make the best decision.
  1. Dirty stores. The retail location appears unclean, cluttered, or out of order. It is very important to keep the outside of the store, the counter area and, most important, the rest rooms clean. Many consumers will stop doing business and/or only get a quote and leave if they feel things aren’t “in order.”
  1. Inconvenience. Aside from stores that do not offer shuttle service, some tire dealers have a “no” can-do attitude and make it hard for people to do business with their store.
  1. Lack of competitive positioning. Many tire dealers do not tell the consumer “why” they should come to their locations. When employees are untrained and unfamiliar with the proper selling procedures, many consumers will refuse to visit your store after the first visit. Consumers today crave to learn more of the “why” a car needs something additional. They want to be educated.
  1. Lack of energy. Disengaged employees who do not energetically serve the customer have forgotten they are in a consumer-centric service business. Tire dealers need to hire for passion and attitude. A recent Gallup Survey revealed 71% of today’s workforce is not fully engaged on the job. Consumers can tell the difference and decide with their pocket books. If your customer feels your employees could be replaced with a touch screen kiosk, they are not fully engaged.
  1. Waiting without being acknowledged. My daughter and I mystery shopped a national chain store in the area I call home. I touched every tire in the showroom, spoke to a few waiting customers and 13 minutes and 28 seconds later I left the store. It had four counter salespeople on duty. All were clearly disengaged. Many customers do not get greeted at all. Even worse is a poorly executed greeting.
  1. Bad or poor online reviews. With the growth in social media, I believe you simply must implement a Customer Experience Process in your business. Failure to do so will limit the positive online reviews.
  1. Ugly website. Most tire dealers today have cluttered, unorganized websites and ugly logos. Many forget the goal is to create an interaction (phone or visit) with the consumer. I am not an advocate of giving prospects tire pricing online.
  1. Lack of sales processes. Selling like a used car salesman is not the way to go, particularly with a product most people buy only when needed. Today’s consumers want to make an informed buying decision. When they feel like they are being sold, they will make excuses for not buying.
  1. Poor communication, particularly with women. The language retail counter salespeople use does not always make sense to women, or men for that matter. I have seen this happen thousands of times. The salesperson tells a female customer something that makes absolutely no sense to her and she replies, “I will let you know something in a day or two.” But she never returns to have the service performed. When the salespeople are condescending or disrespectful, the bad news travels quickly.


A tip to turn it around: Many retail counter salespeople sacrifice trust by failing to make eye contact. They look at their computer screens when talking to customers. Make sure they look the customer in the eye, and don’t use their computers as a crutch.

When consumers buy from a retail tire store

  1. They trust you. Your employees are engaged and energetic. A happy employee is always engaged and makes consumers feel at ease with his or her positive attitude.
  1. Your place of business is clean. What many dealers think is organized and/or clean is... not. Your showroom is not a teenager’s bedroom. Here’s a simple rule: The only things hanging on your wall should be in frames. As far as counter sales brochures, I believe most should be out of sight and only used for a visual aide when speaking with a consumer.
  1. Convenience. If you have a great location and a “can do” problem-solving attitude, then you are ahead of the game. If not, you should consider advertising free shuttle service.
  1. Properly trained employee. Consumers know the difference between properly and improperly trained employees. Starbucks, Apple, Publix and Chick Fil-A spend millions annually on training and it shows in their profits. Training is not something you did, it is something you do.
  1. Energetic employees. Helping a consumer understand “why” their auto needs what you are recommending helps them make better buying decisions. Your salespeople should be educators and be trained to educate the consumer. This title should be printed on business cards for all salespeople.
  1. The best greeting every time. This includes a sincere phone greeting. On most of my mystery shop calls, I can barely understand the business name given, and have a hard time finding out with whom I am speaking. Also, your customers should be greeted as soon as possible when they enter your store. Regardless of how busy you are, when they are within 10 feet of you, acknowledge them with energetic and authentic greetings.
  1. Positive reviews online. Dealers who have a robust customer experience strategy see a healthy decrease in advertising costs and a growth in sales and profit.
  1. Professional website. A great website can generate a request for email quotes, phone calls for quotes, and even a face-to-face visit.
  1. Defined sales processes. Serving and multitasking with customers and making them feel important is an art.
  1. Catering to women. Staying focused on respect for women is important. They control $3.3 trillion in consumer spending, are responsible for 80% of household buying, and control 50% of the wealth in the U.S. ■

Mike Townsend has 27 years of sales experience, with eight in the tire industry. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or email him at

You must login or register in order to post a comment.