Commercial Business Management Retail Wholesale Distribution

Stop, look and listen: Make changes to grow

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Stop, look and listen: Make changes to grow

The most rewarding part of my 35-year experience in the automotive aftermarket has been people. I love cars. I love wheels, tires, service and customers. I love the interaction of connecting the dots to satisfy the needs within our industry.

Manufacturers build ’em, distributors move ’em around, retailers sell ’em to the public, and the cycle continues. People make it happen. Our business is a “people” business. People buy from people. Yes, the Internet has become a powerful “influencer” with its wide variety of ways to search and find information, but statistics show that customer/people research online and buy local, from local provider/people.

At the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas last November, I spoke with many people in our industry. Like I said, I love cars and trucks and bikes, etc. The SEMA Show is like no other event; it is truly a “show.”

For me, however, the best part is the people. This year, three teams of people stick out in my mind. They were excited to be at the show. They were excited to share their ideas, their discoveries, and their fresh commitments to serving the customer/people.

These three provider/people represent the core message of my article this month, dealers who have “stopped, looked and listened” and are making changes to their businesses after taking time to better understand how they might improve their business. All three are paying close attention to hearing and understanding their customers, two are revising their incoming phone call procedures.

All in the family

One team of two brothers by all standards operates one of the best full-service tire and repair outlets in California. Their approach is nothing short of “total customer care” from start to finish to follow-up. They have seemingly been unaffected by the economic downturn and continue to redefine new, higher levels of service.

I can barely express their enthusiasm as they described to me their complete overhaul of their approach to incoming phone calls. They have hired an expert, a specialist in teaching sales staffs to really listen, to truly hear and understand and respond to customer requests in ways that build trust and confidence and sales revenue. They are listening daily to phone calls from the previous day and are measuring their performance against their training and new standards. These brothers/owner/people could not have been more excited and pleased with the results. The brothers/owner/people and the employee/people and the customer/people are all benefiting.

Buddy system

The next team I spoke with is a pair of buddies who worked together as teenagers mounting tires in a shop, and then started their own tire shop in 1989. Partners now for over 22 years and also highly successful, these owner/people are embracing the new digital age. Not only are they upgrading their website, but are partnering with their longtime distributor/supplier/people with a variety of digital initiatives that have been proved successful.

Independently, they have hired a phone service provider that is recording incoming phone calls. This is a family business, and the family team has evaluated their phone skills and openly agreed that they needed to improve. They have revamped their approach and are completely sold on and committed to providing the best phone procedures to improve their customers’ experience. Their excitement is contagious, and the results thus far are outstanding.

Like father, like son

Thirdly is a father and son team who provide specialty services to a narrow and specific niche in the automotive aftermarket. Their specialty is tires and wheels. They know there are a variety of online providers and local options to meet the needs of their clients.

The father and son enjoy a relationship that allows them to speak openly about the details of their business, and the company is growing and expanding because they have agreed to listen to the customer, and they have decided to offer extreme customer service.

 As much as offering wheels and tires, they offer specific solutions with personalized service that exceeds the ordinary. They have a knack, especially the son, for spotting trends that allow them to offer unique solutions. They do this through carefully listening to the nuances and concerns of each and every individual client.

At your service

For all the talk about change in today’s business environment, and yes there is plenty of change, unrelenting fast-paced changes that can be wearisome, it’s good to hear provider/people who are carefully listening to customer/people and responding to their needs and concerns. This people business of ours is the best business of all, filled with opportunity. If you’re a people person, then you never tire of serving people.

Successful people are taking the time to “stop, look and listen,” looking, listening, understanding and responding, and they are excited beyond words about the results they are getting.

All I’m saying is to take a look at your business, cut a piece of it out and completely revamp it.

This will be good for all the people who your business touches!

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

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