Friday, August 7, 2015

The Small Business Advantage

I believe in small business.  We own a small business.  We eat, sleep, breathe small business.  There are huge benefits to working with a small business.  I want to highlight a couple of recent stories one personal and one in our business.  I will focus on the personal story today.

We bought a couple of ceiling fans for our children's rooms.  They were $50 or so each.  Not a bad investment to help cool upstairs rooms during the summer.  So we went to the internet to find an electrician.  I honestly don't know where my husband found the company but I should have known right away that it was a bad idea.  The company name was Mr. Sparky.   Seriously?  Mr Sparky? But I digress.

We called to schedule the service.  They asked what time of the day we would prefer.  So my husband said, earlier in the day would be better.  He was told there was a $79 service call fee.  They asked if that was ok?  And he said yes.

They arrived quite promptly.  He came in and looked at the project.  He got has paperwork out and started writing up the order.  He asked a couple of questions.  One of those was what kind of switch we wanted on the wall.  We could have a switch on the wall that would control the lights and the fan.  I said we didn't need that we could just control with the chains on the fan. He told me that the chains on fans broke quite easily. I asked if it would add significant cost. His answer was no not significant.  (Great up-sell dude).  I even joked with him because at the top of his pricing sheet it showed items at $1,400 and I said I certainly hoped that it wasn't going to be that high.

Well boy was I wrong.  He told me that the price to install the fans and the switch would be over $1,700.  Ok, maybe I don't have any concept of what this should cost but that seemed incredibly ridiculous to me.  AND to make matters worse, even if I went with this price to get them installed they didn't take the service fee off the total.  You paid that no matter what.  Oh and wait - the service fee was actually over $87 when you added some other $8 fee that we weren't told about.    I told the electrician that it was ridiculous and now I was paying $87 for him to walk in our house, look upstairs and write up some paperwork.

The electrician was polite considering that I was quite annoyed.  But honestly he was a little condescending.  He kept asking, "what did you expect to pay"?  I honestly don't know the answer to that but I didn't expect it to be $1,700.  I told him that we own a business and setting customer expectations was incredibly important to customer service.  He argued with me that they couldn't even give a price range over the phone.  He was actually quite condescending.

To add insult to injury he proceeded to tell me that we "chose" a 2 hour service window.  I asked him what the other options were.  4 hour service window for $59 or so and an 8 hour service window that was $29 or so.  DUH we weren't even given the option for the other two service windows.  Talk about a bait and switch.

I placed a call to another local electrician.  I explained my situation.  He said he had heard many similar comments and complaints about Mr. Sparky.  The national company had actually tried to get him to convert his independent business to a Mr. Sparky service.  We talked through what we had.  He asked some questions and said he could do it for about $400.   The fancy switch that I was paying $300 a piece for from Mr. Sparky?  He said, I could go get a switch at home depot and he would install it for me.

So why do I really tell you about this.  This is a national company.  I know there are good large companies out there.  But my experience is the level of service and communication you get from smaller companies is much higher.   We have had similar experiences with big name horrible experiences with furnaces and air conditioners too.

It takes time to find and keep a customer.  It takes seconds to lose one.

What happens when you lose a customer because of your service?

  • You Lose A Client
  • You Lose Referrals
  • You Lose Repeat Business

Here are the important lessons I think are to be learned from this.

  1. Relationship.  Build a relationship early in the sales cycle.
  2. Set realistic expectations with the prospect.  This will help you avoid frustration and unrealistic expectations.
  3. Don't be pushy on the up-sell.  No one likes a "used car salesperson"  If you were to give them options and explain the options, they will most likely take your recommendations.
  4. Don't be greedy.  Companies that are all about money are spotted quickly and trust is lost.
  5. Earn someone's trust.  Stand behind your product or your service and make it right when someone is unhappy.
  6. Trust and service turns into customer loyalty.
Give small business owners a chance.  Chances are you will get a higher level of service.  Win - win right?  


Lori Hanken
Total Displays

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