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What are you doing?

Having a transforming experience

In the book, The Experience Economy, the authors give a strong justification for their explanation of what happens when someone does business with a company. They state:

"If you charge for stuff, you are in the commodity business.

If you charge for tangible things, you are in the goods business.

If you charge for the activities you execute, then you are in the service business.

If you charge for the demonstrated outcome the customer achieves, then and only then are you in the transformation business."

They go on to explain that if the customer acts different, you have caused a transformation to occur. And by doing so, there is no way for what you do to become a commodity.

If you are in the commodity business, you are like the grocery store selling a gallon of milk - any gallon will do and any store will do. The same can be true for the person working the counter in an auto parts store. The customer calls or walks in and asks for a particular part. The counter person verifies the item is on hand, quotes a price and then gets the part from a shelf and places it on the counter for the customer or sets it aside for the delivery person to take to the customer.

What in the world has this to do with your shop that does custom interiors? After all, the word custom is a part of the description of who you are. Let's take a closer look.

We will all agree that the grocery or the parts store in this example have both become nothing more than a commodity. The customer asks what is the price, and probably decides to make the purchase based on price to a large degree.

Looking at the definition from The Experience Economy, you are at least in the service business. But while it is a step or two above commodity, even service can be reduced to becoming a price item. Perhaps you have experienced this when a person drives a car into your shop and tells you they want an interior that looks like a car they have recently seen. "How much is this going to cost me?"

See, this potential customer has reduced your service to a commodity. And then when you have to get into negotiating a price, you can already feel your profit margin beginning to erode.

What can you do, and how do you do something to elevate this transaction to becoming a transformation? The process begins by your taking the time to ask questions of the customer. Ask for more information about what they want the car to look like. Ask why they are wanting to have the interior redone? How long have they had the car? What are they going to do with the car after you redo the seats for them?

Imagine the customer who tells you this car was purchased in the last year. It is a 1969 Camaro Rally Sport, and is the car they always wanted when they were in high school.

Let's ask them if they have had anything done to the car since they bought it. Are they going to take a cross country trip with the car? Do they belong to a car club? Or, have they sought out a local diner where folks take their cars on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon?

If we simply redo the seats, we have provided the service the customer has asked for. It has a price, and when the customer leaves we wait for the next customer. We will never know if the customer has the car repainted, or the engine rebuilt, the dash redone, or just a new ceiling liner. And when the customer decides to have one of these tasks done, they may think of us; especially if you did the seats because you had the lowest price.

What else can we do to go from being the service business to the transformation business? Let's get the customer introduced to the local car club, invite him to the diner, get him copies of articles showing Camaros that look great. What we have to do is transform that customer from simply being the person, who in exploring their "second youth-hood" decided to buy the car they have always remembered and dreamed about. Our job is to get the customer to continue, and grow his love affair with the car of his dreams. We have to transform that customer into a car enthusiast.

But why would you want to go to all that trouble? The first reason is that the alternative is the customer may begin to park the Camaro more and more often, opting to drive the family car or his SUV. And simply because it is easier to keep in contact with that customer and help him to enjoy the vehicle as compared to continuing to advertise to look for the next person who has decided to buy the car of his dreams.

That long term customer, who returns time and again to have something else done to the car of his dreams will spend much more money (and money that is much more profitable for you) as they continue their love affair with that car. He will associate with other car enthusiasts as they encourage each other to enjoy their vehicles. And because you have transformed him, you have created something new. You have provided something that goes far beyond a commodity, goods, a service, or anything else that can be measured in dollars and cents.

Does this require a different way of thinking? Absolutely! But, you say you don't have time to do these types of things. If so, you can continue to have customers driving up wanting to know what your price is to ....

And when you look at reports from our industry telling you how much money some shops are making, you will understand that those owners are not running a service, but are in the transformation business.

So, I've been thinking about finding a 69 Camaro Rally Sport. I want it red with the white trim. Kind of like one of the guys had back in school. The one that I bought the model of, and had sitting on a shelf in my room for years.

And when I come driving up to your shop in my SUV and tell you what I am thinking about, I want to know, "What are you doing?"

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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.

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