Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2008   by Ivan Brown, Owner Of Tirecraft Auto Center In Edmonton, Alta.

Do we Dabble or Commit?

The challenge of a tire shop that is also a full-service, mechanical shop

Are we an automotive service provider that dabbles in tires or a tire shop that dabbles in automotive service? After twenty-some years of operation, I along with longtime business partner Bill Flynn, are committed to both sides of the industry. A tire store that dabbles in automotive service will have an extremely difficult time providing today’s client the value and service excellence they expect. Conversely the automotive repair shop, and more recently car dealerships that dabble in tires sales, quite often miss the mark when dealing with their clients tire needs. Yet today this is still a very prevalent situation within the industry. The gap between being a professional automotive service provider and an extraordinary tire service center has grown. Providing service excellence in both areas within one operation has grown to be more and more of a challenge.

There was a time that a competent tire store could easily provide a high level of complete automotive service to its tire buying clients. As technology advanced, many shop owners stopped investing and made the informal decision to specialize in the “under car service,” while sending the tough stuff to the dealerships and other independent service providers. That lasted for some time and was profitable for many tire centers. With a major technological jump in the mid-90s the “under car” centers found themselves too far out of the business to compete competently. And they were now forced to compete with the big box stores and discount chains to keep tire sales volumes up at the sacrifice of reasonable gross profits.

Some time ago we made the commitment to our clientele, and just as importantly to our staff, to provide service on both sides of the business. We made, and continue to make, serious investments in education, technicians, equipment and technology with the goal of remaining at the cutting edge of customer service and dedicated to provide better-than-dealership service expertise. We could not be an extraordinary service provider without making these commitments.

Over the years, we have maintained a very competent and reliable staff, a staff that understands our balancing act and the importance of being excellent at providing both tire and maintenance services. We simply manage every aspect of our clients servicing needs, which earns us their complete loyalty. Because of this approach we have developed a client base that would certainly be the envy of most auto shops and tire service centers.

However, there remains a challenge to this approach. Over the years, tire manufacturers and retailers have developed a commodity form of thinking within the retail tire market. Our loyal clients take our advice and recommendations with regards to their tire purchase. However, we also deal with clients that believe tires are all about price and have not been educated to see beyond price. The challenge is to slow that process down and educate the client about the fact that the less expensive or lowest-priced tire may not suite their needs or be financially wise. While we may not convince every buyer, the ones that understand and value the expertise frequently become loyal and dedicated clients for all their service needs.

I believe the manufactures in partnership with tire service centers need to develop a client education system. Placing more emphasis on tire safety and quality, rather than price, in order to differentiate themselves from the big box stores or discount clubs. Because clients that value safety and quality far out number the “price only” clients.

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