Being Competitive, It's not only about price.

john_gNovember 2, 2009

Now sure, lots of businesses, and many more consumers equate being competitive, and strangely fair as something that is measured strictly by dollars. Back in March of 06' I had a discussion with a customer that I posted here back then. This past weekend that story got to evolve to a greater level.

Copied from a post I wrote on the iATN.


Are you Competitive, Part II.

Exactly what does that phrase mean to you? Do you have to

have the lowest prices to be more competitive? Do your

customers think that the business that gives them the best

price is more competitive?

Back in March of '06 I had this occur inside my shop.

Pretty simple situation. The car was in for a state inspection, and one tire failed, another was close to failing, and the last two were poor but with as little as he drives, he could get away with them on the back for a while. He readily accepted the advice of replacing the tire, but surprised me when he immediately figured to go elsewhere to buy them. Maybe surprised isn't the right word, disappointed might be a better fit. So I asked him would you like us to get you some prices? Which was then when he came back with the question "Are you competitive?"

It took me a couple minutes to phrase my response. I asked him if he remembered a year and a half previous when his car would randomly not start. He has a Mercury Mystique with a 2.5l V-6. When he called me, I dropped what I was doing and left the shop with what I needed to diagnose the car right in his driveway. Simple, straight forward, it was a bad crank sensor. I asked him if the tire store could compete with that? He smiled and replied, well no. Plus he told me he was thinking about his dad's Dodge Caravan that was hard to re-start after driving hot, but started fine cold. That was a fuel pressure regulator that was leaking.

The bottom line is, the tire store, or WalMart, etc. could

not, would not, have done what I did to take care of them.

Sure they will sell tires to him cheaper, but overall what

does he really need?

.......We ordered his tires for that Monday......

Fast forward, Saturday morning 4AM, the cell phones ringing wakes me. On the line was a nationwide emergency road company, they have a customer with a 1993 Cadillac Deville that locked their keys in the car. I was the fourth place they attempted to call, the first three flatly turned them down. I asked where is the caller at. Davis St, Aliquippa Pa. OK, I know why they got turned down. That's known as plan 11, a place where someone getting shot and killed isn't news anymore. There's no shame in saying "no", in fact by saying yes, you literally are risking everything to go out on a call like that. It's not a decision that can be made about the money, the choice is made as to whether or not to assist a potential customer, or decide they aren't worth the risk. At the same time, this place is so bad if they are not setting a trap for someone going in unaware of the surroundings, this person, stranded where he is, is not safe.

So what do you do? I'll tell you what I did, I went.

On the way to the shop to pick up the necessary tools, I got hold of the local police, and gave them the address for the call and explained the situation. They agreed to drive by and around on the hill until I could confirm if the call was legitimate or not. It was, and the couple could not have been more relieved to finally see help come, and to see the patrol car cruise by. The little airbag trick was defeated by the strength the Cadillacs full door frame, and I am usually terrible at unlocking cars, so to that end I "cheat" and make good use of my electronic bore-scope so that I can see exactly what I need to do. I got the car open in a reasonable amount of time by going directly for the unlocking rod where it is exposed just under the brace that runs from the door handle to the latch.

Back at the shop later that morning, I had a recently purchased BMW in for a state inspection, and the customer

asked me about putting some tires on his Porsche. He had been checking prices online and intended to purchase them and carry them in.

I asked him if he considered buying the tires from me, and I took the opportunity to tell him about the other customer a few years back, and about the fellow that was stranded in plan 11 that morning.

I also pointed out the 2006 Buick LaCrosse sitting in the end bay for an emissions failure that another shop sent me. The other shop doesn't have the tools, nor the training to handle a very simple failure on that car.

We ordered his tires and will do them this week. Plus he wants me to investigate a couple of other concerns he has with his car. ;)


The bigger picture here is I could never match the prices that someone can buy tires (and other things) off of the internet, or some other outside vendor. When someone does purchase outside of our business, they hurt us and reduce our ability to serve them in the long run. We compete by investing in the tools and training, and then make ourselves available to personally solve the customers vehicle problem. You don't know if or when you could be that person stranded in the middle of the night, but you should recognize, the Wal Marts, Sears, Tire Rack, and Jiffy Lubes of the world et al won't come out to help you. They are counting on you to not understand what you are really paying for when you have your car serviced. Guy's like me want you to know exactly what you are really paying for, or else the day will come where we won't be there to help either.

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We had a long term customer shopping for pricing for a new boiler, indirect water heaters, oil tank and extras. They were shopping for the lowest bid, so we didn't give them an estimate.

About a month later, they called the installers since they had no heat, hot water and frozen pipes, but the installers didn't return their phone calls.

Turned out that the installers didn't perform emergency service, nor warranty work, plus they were too small and too busy to service what they sell.

They called about 5 service outfits, but they were too busy to respond immediately, or didn't return calls. Upon arriving we discovered that the boiler was Triple Oversized, had no Low Water Cutoff, no Back-Flow Preventer, no isolation valves, no purge valves and too many other code violations and shoddy workmanship issues to list.

Since they had no way of isolating the system from the domestic water, the antifreeze and chemicals mixed with the domestic water and or leaked out of the old fittings and valves. The installers also pumped contaminated oil into the new tank which plugged the fuel line, filter, pump strainer and nozzle. In addition, they failed to replace the rotted copper oil lines buried in concrete, plus had no FiroMatic valves on the tank or at the burner. They re-used a decades old oil filter with a leaking housing as well.

The installers also re-used the old near-boiler piping, fittings, valves, circulators, air-scoop, expansion tank etc. Since they didn't install flo-check valves and heat traps, ghost flow from the boiler and indirect water heaters were heating zones even though they weren't calling for heat. The installers also re-used the old vent pipe and chimney thimble which rotted and fell on the floor a couple weeks later.

They didn't remove the jacket from the boiler, so they crushed it and scratched it while moving it into the basement. The customer told me the installer's helper was pinned at the bottom of the basement stairs since the installer lost control of the boiler when a step broke.

When I ran a combustion test, my smoke spot tester paper was charcoal black. For some reason, the installer lowered the pump pressure by 40 pounds, doubled the size of the electrode gap, pulled back the Z dimension and installed a much lager nozzle with a wider spray pattern. The customer told me the installer's helper tuned the system, but he tuned the system by sight and sound since he didn't have a pump tester, electrode gauge, wet kit or electronic combustion tester. He told the customer he'd been tuning systems by ear for over 25 years.

The system was also installed without plans, permits and inspections. The burner was located 3 feet from the oil tank which is illegal, plus the installer reused a 1 inch oil tank vent pipe which is illegal as well.

This customer also paid the installers in cash, so they had no receipts or documentation. To add insult to injury, the installers charged the customer about $800 additional in extras above their verbal quote.

The $800 in extras brought the installation price within about $500 of what we would have charged them for a much better and much more efficient high quality installation.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 9:55AM
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Telecoms providers. Notorious when it comes to customer service. I choose to get my telephone, broadband and satellite TV from firms who can take my calls and help immediately if I have an issue. Digiweb and Sky, thank you for splendid service. No point being with the cheapest provider if you can't even notify them that there is a problem and end up with no service for months. Exactly how do you send them an e-mail, as invited to by their recorded message, when your broadband is down? BT and Eircom, hang your heads in shame.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 6:57PM
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