Anonymous Distributor

Saul’s Lawnmower Repair in New Jersey asked A.D. a fantastic question: “Have you noticed more and more dealers servicing only what they sell?” My answer is yes, or almost yes. Let me explain. 

With more manufacturers placing products in mass merchants, regional mass merchants, hardware stores without a service shop, then add your own customers service work to the mix, the demand on dealers to repair it all can be overwhelming. From what I gather when speaking with dealers about this, there is a conflict when trying to please everyone. 

For example, you sell a mower to a loyal customer. You go through the features of the mower, you promote the great service you have, and he goes on his way. Three months later, the same customer hits a rock, bends the blade, wrecks the spindle and needs service. You tell him it will be about a week until you can get to it, and he reminds you of the conversation you had when he bought the mower. “You sold me on great service,” he says. Right there, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, lays the issue! The customer doesn’t forget anything, and you sold him on great service. What you don’t want to tell him is that the mass merchant customers are in front of him. Do I think this happens? Not that much…but, yes, I think this happens. Saul’s question is a great one. The answer, however, is not that easy. 

You are torn between two types of customers: those who support you, and those who use you. Try not to get mad – we are all used one way or another. How can we please everyone? The short answer is we can’t. 

To Saul’s point, dealers are being backed into a corner, and must figure out how to be all things to all people – or change the business model. And that, my friends, is not a cheap solution. One way or another, to do both, it will cost you money – money to hire an additional tech (or more than one depending on how much you take on), or money lost from disgruntled customers waiting for their products to be repaired. 

I think there are two processes being used today:

1) Your customer or a mass merchant customer comes in with their broken equipment. You give them a tag, tell them you’ll get to it in a week and get back to them with the problem, and they leave. First in first out is your method – regardless where they bought it. The same tech works on any kind of equipment.

2) You put customers that purchased from you in front of everyone else. First in, first out ONLY if they bought their product from you. Every time one of your customers brings something in to be fixed, the customer that bought somewhere else moves backward. You must work on it at some point, but it does move backward. 

Both processes are fine, but maybe there is another process for us to ponder. If you can secure enough business from various mass merchants, does it make sense to hire a tech to only work on the mass merchant customers products? That way, your regular tech(s) will work on your customers and not work on any mass merchant equipment, unless there is downtime. By doing this, your customers will be happier, and you’ll get more work in the shop. 

The shop…oh, yeah…I forgot that maybe you don’t have enough space in the shop to do the work. Does it make sense to send the tech to repair on site? We’re talking creative thinking here, and creativity is what you need in today’s business environment.

If none of that appeals to you, and you are still contemplating servicing only what you sell, then make the decision and do it. You might experience a growth in your own equipment simply because you might be the only service shop around. Or you lose money without having mass merchant customers bringing in their products. 

See what I mean, Saul? It’s a very tough question, but a great one – thank you. With a shortage of techs in many places throughout the country, you, the dealer, are faced with the tough question: “Should I only work on what I sell?” You are the only one who can make a commitment to service everyone, or back off and service only what you sell. 

I would love to hear from you and help get Saul’s question answered by the experts – you. Feel free to write me your answer to OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or tweet me @OPEMAGAD. Remember to keep your mind and blades sharp!

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