Timeless Pillars and New Automotive Digital Tools Help Power Double-Digit Growth at K&W Tire
These are the pillars that support the fast-growing business at K&W Tire Inc., says Jim Reeser, director of retail operations, helping propel K&W from 6 to soon-to-be 7 locations in Pennsylvania and Vermont. And while these pillars are timeless, the tools Reeser uses to erect them have changed dramatically in recent years, says the longtime industry veteran. In fact, the digital revolution has given Reeser a whole new set of tools to work with.
Starting Out in the Aftermarket Industry
When Reeser got his start in the automotive services industry, decades ago, things like digital vehicle inspection, digital marketing and digital communication platforms weren’t even on the horizon. Today, he wouldn’t operate an automotive service-repair business without them, he says.
K&W, founded in Lancaster, Penn., back in 1951, has always been a forward-thinking company. With the founding Kline family still at the helm, the wholesale division of K&W has grown into one of the largest distributors of Cooper Tires and Cooper brands in the nation.
Reeser is thankful for the investments the Klines make in the retail side of the business — investments that allow Reeser and his hardworking team to deliver exceptional customer service and post double-digit sales increases for the past two years running.
Meeting The Expectations of the Online Consumer in Need of Service
“We can offer customers transparency and real-time information very easily now,” says Reeser. For instance, “Soon people are going to able to see our tire inventory as well as get a price right on our website. It’s an example of how we’re making it easier for our customers to quickly get the information they’re looking for.
”K&W is now able to do this thanks to Openbay Otis, the intelligent, automated chat and messaging platform, they began using on their website roughly two years ago. Otis emulates service advisor, but does it virtually, featuring a full tire catalog that can generate tire options and pricing by vehicle year, make and model — instantly and 24/7. Otis can also provide price estimates for mechanical service and repair and take service appointments.
Otis clearly appeals to millennials, Gen Z and younger generations, but consumers of all ages have become enthusiastic digital shoppers particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic. “What if a customer wants a price on an alignment when we’re closed?” Reeser points out. “With Otis, they can get a price, ask a question and make an appointment. It’s phenomenal.”Times are changing and savvy shops better follow suit, Reeser continues. “A lot of people aren’t going to make a phone call to the store these days — they’re going to go to the next website. Your competition is just one click away.”
Increasing the Focus on Digital Marketing and Customer Service
With that in mind, K&W has increasingly devoted budget dollars to digital marketingincluding revamping their website to make it more interactive and user friendly and encouraging customers to post online reviews.
K&W also created a two-person customer service team, in Lancaster, to follow up onall Otis inquiries as well as social media and digital advertising inquiries.
“Our stores can get very busy so we decided we could offer better, faster service through our call team,” explains Reeser. K&W even took the step to personalize their website’s Otis experience by featuring the name of one of the team members on duty.
“I think shops need to respond within 24 hours,” he says, adding that most Otis users request follow up via text message. “People thank our call center team by name in reviews so I know we’re satisfying their needs and making that personal connection.
”Once K&W installed Otis on their website, says Reeser, visitors flocked to it right away. To manage and track inquiries including how many resulted in sales, Reeser and his team use the Otis dashboard. “It’s easy, even for a guy like me!” Reeser jokes.
Otis is a great complement to digital vehicle inspections, says Reeser. “They both build transparency by providing customers with information and that helps them feel comfortable trusting their cars with us. We’re big believers in information and education.”
The K&W team is also a big believer in giving back to the communities they serve, says Reeser. “It’s our mission. Each store adopts a local charity for a year. Recently our two stores in Vermont raised over $5,000 for autism.
”Reeser’s been in the game long enough to know which trends are here to stay including new digital shop technology and digital communication platforms. “It’s completely different from how we did business 20 years ago,” he says. “And If you don’t adapt, you’ll be gone.”
For Reeser, the new digital tools serve a time-honored tradition. “How much easier can we make it for our customers — that’s what it boils down to.”
For more about K&W Tire stores, visit kwtirestore.com
For more about K&W Tire Inc., visit kwtire.com
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