Little things sell big things

Trailer, courtesy of Bill Ward
Trailer, courtesy of Bill Ward

Earlier this week, we talked about how a little thing like the delivery of a sippy cup at the end of a long, hot weekend could change an entire restaurant experience.

Two recent adventures further illustrate how little things could make a difference.

Unfortunately, they involve those gasoline-powered devices / vehicles that so love to toy with me.

Les to the rescue

First, there’s the youngest son’s car which needed tires rather badly. So badly that they were on my short list of stuff to deal with when I return from out of town. Of course, one of them decides to fail *while* I’m out of town.

Because I’m at Scout camp, there’s no way to catch me (no cell, no internet) and of course, my wife was unavailable at the time the tire failed as well.

So there is my 17 year old needing tires, without enough cash in his account to pay for them, temporarily with no access to mom and dad, and (of course), no credit card.

For whatever reason, Les Schwab Tires put tires on it, wrote up a bill and sent him on his way – and he was on time to work.

Maybe that would happen in a big city, maybe it wouldn’t, but the bottom line is that it happened and I appreciated it. Stuff like that is why I buy tires at Les Schwab – they do stuff that they don’t *have* to do.

Tow headed boy

This morning, I wake up after at least 3 cups of coffee (ahem, yes that it more than it usually takes) and realize that another vehicular issue needs to be dealt with.

My trailer light wiring got ripped out from under my Suburban on a leisurely off-road excursion a while back. Also on the “round tuit” list, they remained dysfunctional until this morning when I realize that I need working lights.

See, I have to tow the Montana Federation of Swimming’s Western division timing/scoring trailer back from Shelby MT in preparation for our Divisional swim meet here next week.

It’s a pretty sizable trailer and driving back with no trailer lights on a prime tourist route is a really bad idea for lots of reasons.

Oops.

So I go to a RV sales and repair place on the way back from town and ask if they have the trailer light T-adapter that fits onto the lighting harness. Getting one of these means I just unhook the harness and plug the ends into the T-adapter and whammo, I’ve got lights.

I walk into the RV place and if we were in the South, you could’ve heard crickets. No one in sight. I look around and finally a few minutes later I find a guy walking out of the lunch room.

He proceeds to spend 20 minutes digging in a paper catalog to find a part number, but finds nothing and blames the guy who wrote the index.

Google is your friend

Meanwhile, there is a computer on the counter. I suppose I could have Googled trailer light adapter a little faster, but I thought I’d give the guy a break.

After all this, he gives me the catalog and starts opening a box of mail on the counter. I’m just a little stunned. I go back to the index, use the brand name that is on a similar adapter from the shelf (I brought it to the counter as an example of what I needed).

The brand name is indexed and one of the two entries lists the page where the exact item I need is shown.

He looks up the item and tells me the price ($21) and asks if I want it. Of course I do, as I have 30 minutes invested in it already.

He says (I suggest you sit down)…“We don’t stock these items, do you want me to order it?”

So 30 minutes later, I still don’t have wiring harness and he is just now sharing with me that these items aren’t stocked.

He says the one I found on the counter was mis-packaged and apparently came from the repair department as an ordering mistake. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out why we spent 30 minutes searching for something that they don’t even stock, despite my telling him I needed it today.

NAPA, take me away

Empty handed, I leave the RV place and head for Columbia Falls. I slide into NAPA and start looking around and less than 30 seconds have gone by when someone approaches me and asks if they can help me find something.

I tell him what I need and they go to the computer (wooo, aint that cool?) and find it.

He digs around for the wiring adapter in the back, then looks on the shelf and finds it. Note that this is different than what a typical store staffer elsewhere might have done. The expectation is that they will point toward the front of the store and say “They’re on aisle 8.”

Instead, in Nordstorm-like fashion, he took me there and found it.

All the time, he is smiling and friendly. The lady up front is also smiling and friendly.

Now to be fair, I should admit that I know the owners of this NAPA and they are more often than not (pretty much always) smiling and friendly. But these staffers don’t *know* that I know the owners. They don’t really know me from Andy Granatelli (I’m taller).

Yet I get service like that $19 purchase was the most important one I ever made. Oddly enough, it is – because you are only as good as your last transaction.

Get recommended

It’s unlikely that I will ever buy a monster RV and probably not even a camp trailer (that RV place sells everything from $10k trailers to $150k “Class A” RVs), but it is likely that sometime, somewhere, someone will ask me which RV place to go to or where to get auto parts or tires, and so on.

Which places do you think I’ll recommend?

Are your people doing what is necessary (or more) to motivate people to recommend your business? Psst: That’s just one form of marketing.

5 thoughts on “Little things sell big things”

  1. Mark,

    I sure enjoyed this post.

    We spend our time working with local small business owners and professional service firms equipping them to understand that there is no such thing as either an off-line or on-line business.

    Reading the part about the old-school catalog makes me shutter as it should encourage local small biz owners to gain a competitive advantage.

    And thanks for reminding us that “we are only as good as our last transaction.”

    Matthew Ray Scotts last blog post..Sell the Click

    1. Thanks Matthew. Reminding ourselves and others about that last transaction is kinda important – especially when *we’re* the last transaction 🙂

  2. I enjoyed reading this one as well. More and more companies are realizing that we (consumers) value good customer service very highly and they are learning to accommodate that. But there are still even more businesses that have not yet made this realization or simply don’t care. Those are the ones that are the most likely to lose customers as we shift to expecting great service all the time rather than just finding it a nice rarity when we get it. -Fujita

Comments are closed.