Just like the "neighborhood tire guys", we want to make every customer feel like a part of our family.
We all know the “neighborhood tire guys”. The local, independent service garages with an undeniable likeability. Usually family owned, extremely friendly, and free of corporate politics.
I became the Fixed Operation Manager of a longstanding suburban Ford dealership in the Fall of 2013. The numbers showed several areas of low customer retention and low employee morale. Over the years many studies show up to 75% of car owners leave the dealership for independent service garages after the New Car warranty expires. Today, a car owner has dozens of Tire/Quick Service Chains ready to earn their business. Our dealership had close to 20 of these stores within a 10-mile radius. Think about tire wear and a car needing tire replacement about every 30,000 – 40,000 miles, and tag that statistic to the average new car warranty expiring about 35,000. This is an opportunity to lose your “loyal customer” to the chain tire/service stores.
Our dealership was not known as a place to buy tires and our “loyal customers” would go the local tire stores when the car was ready for their first replacement of tires. Remember 35.000 miles is the warranty expiration and the time for new tires. The numbers showed that we would also lose their oil change, brake and state inspection business along with other service opportunities. The “loyal customers” would come back to us for warranty work, but we would lose most of their other business to the “neighborhood tire guys”.
Our technicians were not motivated to sell tires and if they did, we would have to truck the customer’s wheels and tires from their bay in the Main Shop to our adjacent building where the tire store room, mounting and balancing machines and alignment rack were located. The equipment was serviceable but well over 15 years old. Tires and alignments were not a fun ticket for the technicians, leading to some of the low employee morale.
I did my studies and sales projections and presented the plan to our dealer. My solution included several crucial steps:
Step 1: New Equipment.
We bought 3 of the latest Hunter Tire Machines and 3 Hunter Balancing Machines with Road Force balance capacity; one pair for each shop. Prior to this purchase we would take the road force balance tire/wheel candidates down the road to another dealership and sublet this operation to them costing lift tie up, driver time and have our techs standing around. Many times we would do this while the customer was waiting. One pair of the new Tire equipment was placed in a central area of the Main shop where every tech was no further than 80 feet away making their job much easier. The other pairs were placed in the nearby Quick Lane and our other Service Shop. The Techs were trained on the new machines and quickly realized the new equipment made the job so much easier with less physical effort by the tech.
Step 2: Purchase of a New Alignment Rack.
The purchase a new Hunter alignment rack was essential. We put the rack in the adjacent building which is also shared with our body shop. Our quick lane operation is in a separate building on our campus. The new alignment rack is just a few yards away from all three departments, quick lane, Ford service and our body shop
Step 3: Employee Incentive Program.
We put a cash incentive program in place to encourage the technicians and also provide additional income to the top performers. We award the top three technicians in tire sales, alignments, and batteries each month with cash bonuses of $100-$50-$25 in each area. Every month, goals are established and the technicians have an incentive to constantly be at their best.
Step 4: Coupon/Mailer Promotion.
A coupon/mailer promo was rarely done but was very important. This promotion was with the goal of making our customers feel special. They would come into the store with a tangible coupon in hand to get their new tires. Just like the “neighbourhood tire guys”, we want to make every customer feel like a part of our family.
Step 5: Training, training, training.
We invested heavily in equipment and training for every member on our team. By working with all departments and ensuring channels for feedback on training, we were able to achieve ROI in just a few months. We noticed problems in the way business was conducted and we all buckled up to solve them.
Our hard work paid off.
Here are the results:
- Tire sales up 300%
- Alignments up 400%
- Batteries up 125%
- Service gross sales up 65%
The technicians are happy, we have our customers back, and the dealer is ecstatic.
In the last 36 months since starting “Project Retention”, we are #1 in our Regional dealer group in tire Sales, batteries and alignments where we used to be near the bottom of the list.
Our dealership is now the “neighborhood tire guys”.