Being Competitive, It's not only about price.
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.