Service: It has to be experienced

After a short wait in line it was my turn.

“Good afternoon, I need someone to look at my laptop. I am having trouble with the power port and the CD tray does not always come out.”

“OK, give me a second and I will get your info.”

“Thanks.”

I grabbed a stool and half sat back on it, thinking I wouldn’t require the whole cushion for such a short wait. As time passed, I finally slid across the pad, raised my feet up and placed my heels on the foot rest (Excellent. It swivels!) It became obvious that my friendly tech support person seemed to be having one of those days, so I decided that rotating around to people watch would be much more interesting than observing his sloth-like movements.

Shortly thereafter it came to the point that I wondered, “Is there a hidden camera filming me?” I have to confess that on more than one occasion I found myself spouting off under my breath about the type of service I was witnessing and asking, “How does this fly?,” “How do they survive?,” “Am I dreaming?,” or even, “Hello?”

With everything that surrounded me it was not hard to busy the mind; after all, I was inside of a Big Box Store. The automatic doors never really seemed to rest from the constant flow of foot traffic.

These large chain stores spend big money on advertising and studies on what goes where and why. They have the buying power that allows them to purchase large quantities of product ensuring attractive pricing for their seemingly ever-growing market share. Being in sales, I thought I would make use of my new-found time to study how they use displays and signage to capture the eye, to peak interest.

I guess it wasn’t too long before I lost track of “studying their market strategy” and came to the realization of a few key points that they focus on.

PRICE

It is no secret that price is a top determining factor in whether a consumer makes a purchase or decides to wait. Viewing the copious starbursts and bright posters which displayed their “wow” pricing, it was obvious what the studies had found.

PRODUCT

Easily visible all throughout the store, whether hanging from the ceiling, posted at the end of each isle or mounted atop a stacked pile, you could see the different manufacturers’ banners, signs and flashing neon.

ADVERTISING

Every week, America-at-large is inundated with fliers announcing the latest sale blitz, delivered right to our homes by the postal service. Turn on the television and there they are again with commercials showcasing price and product right in our living rooms.

I purchased my laptop from this store due to the reasons listed above, but not necessarily in that order … in fact it was just the reverse. I needed a laptop and each week in the mail was a flier listing several brands at various prices, so when it came time to purchase where did I go? The store that marketed its offerings the best by keeping them fresh in my mind.

Back at the stool, a lot of things ran through my mind. How did I decide to buy my laptop here and not seek out a small computer shop to help me with my needs? The decision was no doubt clouded by their consistent advertising covering various models and prices. The reason I used the word clouded is because of one major component that I left out of the purchasing process. That’s right, service!

Had my business gone to a small computer shop, I most certainly would have been treated differently when it came time for service work. How do I know? A small business (like ours) has a vested interest in customers coming back through the door. One way of accomplishing this is by providing excellent customer service and reaping the benefits from “word of mouth” referrals, and not relying on sheer numbers to pull in customers.

I am in no way telling you not to purchase from a Big Box Store — only of my realizations from my experience and to be mindful that we survive on our reputation for service as does any small business.

Our customers have so many options today for making a purchase outside of a tool truck that their judgment can also be clouded. It is when service is needed that things become a little clearer and the price point drops on the list of determining factors for them — although then it’s too late!

On the drive home, I discussed with my wife the time I spent at the support counter and a lesson that I will never forget: Despite all of the marketing in the world showcasing price and product, no company can convey or transfer through advertising the experience of receiving quality customer service — it has to be experienced!

Joe Poulin is a mobile tool distributor based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Send any comments or feedback you have for Joe by e-mail to brendan@pten.com

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