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What if?

Unique Examples of Service

"Some people see things that are and say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were and say, "Why not?" George Bernard Shaw

This industry, like every other aspect of retail and service, has some people that are unique and very different. The old saying of, "Marching to the beat of a different drummer", definitely holds true for these folks. While there are some that are just plain weird, the ones of interest today are those that are very creative in their approach to business. They have an amazing talent to look at the way something is traditionally done and manage to develop a different way; one that is not only profitable for them but advantageous to their customers as well.

Take a look at the shop. Most people hire a technician that has years of experience and education with one or more engines and product lines. This individual receives an hourly wage along with a percentage of the labor revenue he produces for the shop. This person has the responsibility of repairing equipment and in many shops also has the responsibility of looking up and ordering parts, assembling new equipment and writing the service tickets.

When business is slow, whether it be due to the seasonality of our industry, or the economy, the owner or manager has to deal with making decisions of who to lay off, whether it be temporarily or permanently.

Then, there is the person that you meet at Expo that does things a bit differently. They use methods that you may see as a bit strange for their shop. As strange as they may seem, this person assures you their different ways are putting additional dollars in their checking account.

Take for example the person that has decided the traditional shop hours of 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday are outdated.

Their customers don't have to bring their equipment in at all. The customer can make a phone call to the shop. As their service ticket is written over the phone, one of the questions asked is, "What time do you leave for work?"

And if the answer is "7:30am", the person writing the ticket responds with, "Great. We will be by your place after 7am and before you leave for work."

When the repair is completed, another call is placed asking the customer what time they will be home. They are told about the repair, the amount, and if the customer is paying by credit card, they take that information over the phone so that the transaction can be processed before the equipment is returned.

There is not a posted fee for this service, but as the shop owner explains, "We come out OK with the extra business that we get by offering the pick up and delivery."

Expense wise, he makes arrangements with his mechanics to make the pick up and delivery, before and after work while paying them a few dollars for each. If they can make 3 or 4 stops coming to work or going home, the technician is able to make some extra income each week for a minimal amount of effort.

While that may seem to be the ultimate in customer convenience, their service center has a technician on hand until 8pm, Monday through Friday and all day on Saturday.

This is for customers that want to personally speak with a technician, but also allows for what they call their "premium service". The premium service is for customers that have need or want to have their equipment immediately. And for that service, there is a posted premium charge.

Does every customer want the premium service? No, but it comes in handy for the person needing to cut their grass the next day before they head out for a vacation or another similar need.

Whatever their need, this shop does everything they can to make it easy for their customers, and easy for their shop to gain as much additional business as possible.

Another dealer, from the northern part of the country, has a warehouse they have rented for the winter season each year. It seems there is a glut of buildings available and they are currently using it to their advantage.

As the summer season draws to a close they send post cards to their customers offering to "winterize" that customer's power equipment. As equipment is brought in, a service ticket is written for each piece of equipment as they ask the customer if there are any problems with the machine that need to be taken care of before spring arrives.

In addition to cleaning, and possibly repairing the equipment, the shop offers to store the equipment for the winter. This allows the customer to gain additional storage space in their garage or shed. As spring approaches, each piece of equipment is repaired if necessary, and given a spring tune up and returned to the customer. The fee for the storage and spring tune up is collected in advance so that the cashflow of the shop remains strong.

There is a nominal monthly fee for the storage of the equipment, but the price of the tune up is lower than the price for the same tune up performed during the season. Of course, the winter storage costs consumes that difference, but by having the equipment sitting in the warehouse for five or more months allows the show owner to keep his technicians employed and working during the off season.

Word of mouth has brought this dealer a lot of new business; much of it from people who become customers just because they need the extra space around the house. Both of these strategies are outside the norm, but both have been created by a shop owner or manager that was thinking, "What if?" and then "Why not?"

What do you think?

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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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