Alberta location wins prestigious National Store of the Year award.
It was cause for celebration when the owners of OK Tire Strathmore discovered they’d been nominated for a corporate award. After all, they knew they did an excellent job for their customers and participated in the company’s programs, and so they thought their Alberta store would be named top in the Prairie Region, as one of five regional OK Tire winners.
Instead, at the OK Tire Stores annual conference, held in the Dominican Republic, they were shocked to discover that, out of more than 300 locations across Canada, they’d been named National Store of the Year for 2018. It was the third time a store in the Prairies had taken the prestigious top honour.
“We work to build our customer base,” said James Watt, General Manager and one of the store’s owners. “We reach out to customers, talk to them about what we could improve upon, where we could move forward, and what they would like to see. Customers are looking for loyalty. They just want to be treated with respect and honesty. We’ve trained our staff about going into the basics of customer experience.”
Lots of competition
Strathmore is a town of just 13,700 people, but there are several big-box stores and Reaching for the Top tire shops, Watt said. “We have a lot of competition, so we just try to be who we are and what we do best, which is to look after our customers. We have four bays and eight employees, so we’re a medium-sized tire shop. We’re full service with accessories, wheels, tires, and mechanical, which is a big part of our business. We pretty much do it all.”
The store was originally known as Boots & Boosts, and signed with OK Tire in 2015. Watt originally worked for OK Tire at the corporate level, and helped the store make the transition. “You have to make your initial investment, and once you do, you get into the programs, the advertising, and the branding. It’s an awesome program,” Watt said.
Strathmore is cowboy country, and the showroom is finished in barnboard, with wheels and tires on display. But rustic only goes so far, and Watt emphasizes creature comforts with coffee and spotlessly clean bathrooms outfitted with top-quality soap from the local bed-and-bath store, because it’s important to customers.
Serving town and country
In addition to tires for cars, trucks and SUVs, OK Tire Strathmore handles agricultural tires from wheelbarrows right up to large tractors and combines. Watt estimates that about 30% of the store’s business is agricultural.
The store has two service trucks, and they’re dispatched whenever it’s required. “If someone says they have a flat and they need to be looked after, we’ll go, even if it’s just two minutes from our store,” Watt said. “Or we’ll have a farmer who’s forty kilometres away and has a big tractor tire that needs fixing, and we’ll go to him as well.”
Online advertising and community support
Most of the store’s advertising is online, and the store posts frequently on Facebook and Instagram, as does OK Tire itself. “We’re not currently doing radio ads, because a lot of people don’t listen to the radio anymore. I know when I get into my car, I turn on my phone for music. And it’s tough to track the demographics on newspaper advertising.
“One of our biggest supporters is the Facebook sites for small towns, such as the Strathmore Community. People will ask where they can get an oil change done, and other people type in and say, ‘OK Tire is where I go.’ We try not to advertise on that, because we let the customers do it for us. It’s word of mouth through these little sites.”
OK Tire Strathmore also gives back to the community through event sponsorships OK Tire Strathmore is recognized as National Store of the Year. and initiatives, including annual drives for the local food bank for the past three years. Through its “Donation for a Discount” campaign, which starts in late October for the Christmas season, the store gives customers a discount on their purchases if they bring in food donations at the same time. The project has raised over 1,500 pounds of goods for the food bank.
As the company switched to OK Tire, things went smoothly and with few challenges to overcome, Watt said. “Most of it is in customer retention and price. You basically give a product and a service to the customer that they deserve. It’s the care and commitment to our communities, and the value we add to our products. It’s not where you are, but what you do, that makes you successful.”