It's Prime Time for Summer Car Prep, Says Richlonn's Tire & Service Centers
March and April Are Ideal Times to Discuss Vehicle Maintenance
March and April are ideal times to discuss vehicle maintenance with customers - using their summer driving plans as a jumping-off point, says Brett Matschke, owner of Richlonn’s Tire & Service Centers, a five-outlet dealership that’s based in Muskego, Wis.
“We’re seeing a lot more driving vacations than we’ve come across in the past. Customers want to be ready to go, rather than have to scramble at the last minute.”
To help cars roll into warmer weather months, Richlonn’s Tire first focuses on steering and suspension service. Then it promotes wheel alignments.
Potholes can do a number on ride control parts, says Matschke. “And we want to make sure alignments haven’t gotten out of specification” during the winter months - “whether it’s driving over potholes or driving in or over snow and ice.”
His dealership ties alignments to helping customers get the most out of their tire investment. “If a customer purchases a tire from us, we offer to check wheel alignment once a year at no charge. We tell people the two best things they can do for their tires are rotate them on a regular basis and make sure alignment is checked on a regular basis.”
Car care can be neglected during winter months, especially in the run-up to the holidays, notes Matschke.
“We like to say that unless the weather is driving top-of-mind awareness or people are experiencing problems with their cars as the holidays approach, at some point, Santa Claus starts winning,” he says with a laugh.
“People have limited resources. They’re focused on ‘How do I find the time to get stuff done, take care of my family and make sure the holidays are great?’ and not necessarily, ‘Why isn’t my car doing what it should be doing?’”
Three customer types
To put people in the maintenance frame of mind, Richlonn’s Tire also offers discounts on vehicle inspections.
“We take the wheels off. We check the brakes. We check for any play in the wheel bearings. We check shocks and struts and for any kind of corrosion issue. We’ll get underneath the hood - belts, hoses, fluids.
“The customer is going to get a complete run-down of their car. We’ll let them know where things are and when maintenance might be due. We try to take a consultative approach.”
When helping customers control their auto repair costs, “prevention is the first line of defense,” says Matschke. “Minimization is the second line of defense.
“I tend to think there are three broad groups out there from a car maintenance standpoint. There are those who aren’t going to do any maintenance and are going to fix stuff when it breaks.
“There are those who are open to preventive maintenance and doing some things along the way. It’s just a matter of us taking the time and educating those people that we can handle it. If it’s factory-scheduled maintenance, some people have it in their minds that they have to go back to the car dealership, which is not the case.
“The third group comes in with their maintenance schedule and says, ‘OK, I’m due for something.’
“The biggest group is the middle group. They’re open to preventive maintenance if they understand the value.
“But sometimes it’s just not the right time for the customer to do anything,” he adds.
In these instances, Richlonn’s Tire takes a softer approach. “We’ll say, ‘There are things due on your car. Would you like to talk further about it?’ Some people will say yes. Other people will say, ‘I’m good for now.’”
Tire dealers should seize the opportunity “anytime you have the ability to talk with customers and educate them about why vehicle maintenance is a good thing,” says Matschke.