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First Class Service Department
Making the Most of a Spring Opportunity
This is the time of year when homeowners open their garages and storage sheds to pull out their lawn mowers, string trimmers, garden tillers, as well as many other assorted lawn care tools. With proper planning, we have found that this annual event provides our store with an excellent opportunity to become the spring headquarters for shoppers in our area.
The first part of our becoming headquarters involved searching out and properly pricing items which are price sensitive. These are the items that we find our competitors are featuring in their newspaper, television, and direct mail advertising.
We have found that we do not have to have the lowest price or even match the price of the discount stores or warehouse operations. Using an example of an item which is being advertised by these retailers at $8.00, we can usually get by with being higher in price by as much as two dollars.
The important point has been that we are not attempting to get our usual margin on an item that is being heavily promoted. If we do price these items with our usual margin, our customer will compare prices, find us to be much higher and then assume that we are higher priced with all items in our store. Over the past five years, we have found that there are usually no more than 25 items in our lawn and garden department that we have to watch for in pricing.
As we have watched for these items during these years, we find that the majority of the items are price sensitive year after year. And with items repeating themselves, we are able to purchase them at the most advantageous price from our suppliers.
The last ingredient we use in this situation is making sure that we keep these items on feature end caps for the entire spring and that they appear on a frequent basis in our advertising.
An area we will be trying to emphasize this year is getting additional dollars by having several items available for rent. For example, we believe we can gain additional sales by renting to our shopper a spreader when he purchases his lawn fertilizer from us. Our spreaders rent for $1.00 with the purchase of a bag of fertilizer. Should the shopper want to rent a spreader to use with the fertilizer he purchased at another store, we will gladly rent the spreader to him, but for a fee of $4.00. The additional $3.00 charge easily negates any price advantage the shopper had gained when purchasing the fertilizer at another store.
We feature another department which we believe can be the deciding factor which sets our store apart from the warehouse stores and discount chains. Just like having a quality sales staff, having a service department gives our store an advantage which those other stores have never had, and probably never will.
We offer repair service to any piece of equipment that we can obtain the necessary parts for. The basis for this decision comes in the expectation that someday that piece of equipment is going to break down for the last time. We want to be the dealer that tells the customer that he needs to purchase a replacement item, expecting him to allow us to show him our product selection.
When we do sell that new or used piece of equipment, we add to our files, a card for the customer, tracking his name, address, make, model, and serial number of the item. By doing this we not only have an addition to our mailing list, but in the event the equipment is ever stolen, we can provide the customer with the necessary proof of purchase for the police or insurance company.
While we are servicing the equipment, we strive to provide first class service. We begin by training each of our team members on the proper procedure for writing a service order when a customer brings his equipment into the store. Everyone knows how to check for warranty papers, as well as how to properly document situations where the customer has asked for an estimate of cost. We eliminate the possibility of our serviceman having to call the customer and having to ask what services he is to perform.
When our serviceman does work on a piece of equipment, we provide each customer with many additional services at no charge. For example, with each lawn mower we sharpen the blade, change the oil, clean the air filter, adjust the carburetor, tighten all belts and chains as well as thoroughly clean the mower. Our serviceman uses a large rubber stamp to indicate on the service order that we have performed all of these services at no charge. Of course, when we are done, we place a large yellow sticker on the unit which clearly identifies our store as the service headquarters in our area. Finally, upon completing the service work and totaling the invoice, the customer in notified by our cashiers that his equipment is ready to be picked up.
This spring we will be experimenting with another special service. When we do not have a part in stock for repair of certain items, we will offer to our customer an overnight loan of a similar piece of equipment at no charge.
While we also sell used equipment, we also offer to assist our customer in selling their equipment when they decide to move into an apartment or employ a lawn service. Of course, we do not make any profit from such a transaction, but we do believe that these dollars will come back to our store from what must be a very appreciative customer. In offering these first class services to help our customers keep their lawns green, we definitely help make our profits green.
This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.