Booking ahead essential for optimal tyre service
It seems being spoiled for choice may also spoil our chances of receiving the tyre service we want, when we want it. Michelin’s head of Fleet, Dave Crinson, opines that a wholesale shift in the way drivers view tyre appointments needs to occur due to the number of tyres now available on the market. This diversity means drivers who arrive unannounced at fast-fit suppliers may end up with a second or third choice tyre, or may be required to return at a later date.
At Michelin alone, a combination of tyre technology developments and wider variety of vehicle models requiring a greater range of load and speed ratings has led to the number of Michelin car and van tyre fitments doubling to 800 in the last decade. This includes an additional 275 cold weather tyre lines.
Crinson says the UK fleet industry can learn lessons from Europe, where company car drivers are used to booking tyre appointments in advance as a matter of course. “In this country we are fortunate enough to have a wide choice in the items we buy – from computers to furniture or even cars. And in the majority of cases, if people want a specific or unique item they know not to expect to walk into a store and instantly get what they want,” he said. “It’s the same with services. No one expects to get an appointment with a doctor or dentist immediately unless it’s an emergency, and drivers would always expect to book ahead for an MOT or vehicle service. It is my firm belief that people need to start thinking of tyres in this way.
“It’s unrealistic to think that every tyre dealer will have every single tyre line in stock at all times and for fleets there are consequences in terms of the fulfilment of tyre policies,” Crinson added. “Unless drivers give advance warning, they jeopardise their chances of getting their first choice tyre. Of course there will be times when drivers need emergency assistance if a tyre is damaged or punctured, but for general replacements people should plan ahead and book appointments.”
Michelin reports the most popular tyre for fleet and retail customers at the moment as being 205/55 R 16 – a size where it has ten derivatives plus vehicle manufacturer-specific fitments.
Kwik-Fit’s fleet sales director, Peter Lambert, agrees with Crinson, recommending customers phone ahead: “We have 800 centres and stock between 1,200 and 1,500 tyres per centre, but gone are the days where you can turn up at a centre and almost guarantee they will have the specific tyre you need. We always have the most popular sizes in stock, however if your vehicle’s tyre size is less common or you want a specific brand, that’s when it is a good idea to phone in advance.
“Some people do phone in advance; today it’s predominantly retail customers,” Lambert continued. “We would encourage all customers – retail and fleet – who have busy schedules and want to minimise time spent in the centre to phone first, check we have their tyres in stock and identify a good time for them to come in and have them fitted.”
At ATS Euromaster, the team is looking to set up an online booking system for tyre appointments for the leasing industry. “We are currently working on a project to offer lease vehicle customers the ability to book a tyre fitting appointment in our centres online,” commented group sales director Peter Fairlie. “It is still early days, but we hope to add this to our range of available services later this year.
“Our colleagues at Euromaster in Holland and France already offer e-bookings and the take-up from drivers is high. In Holland alone, they receive in the region of 150,000 online bookings every year,” Fairlie added. “Being able to offer pre-booked appointments is about making the process hassle free for customers, and ensuring we are always ready with the right quantity, brand, size and speed rating of tyres, in the right location, at the right time.”
To help fleet drivers plan ahead, Michelin has developed an online tool that tracks tyre wear and predicts when replacement tyres will be needed. Tyre Manager can be found at www.mymichelin.co.uk/tyre-manager. “This tool could be particularly useful for fleets as it will help them budget more effectively and plan ahead for maintenance work,” said Dave Crinson. “That could mean unexpected and lengthy disruptions will be avoided, which is important for any business.”