Thursday, October 16, 2008

Being Better Doesn't Cost a Lot

How much do you have to spend to separate yourself from the competition? The answer is surprisingly little.

As we all have to do from time to time, this week I had my car repaired due to a power window which didn't go up all the way. The repair was fairly expensive due to the particular part which needed replacing and I used an off market shop for the first time which specializes in my type of vehicle and was located close to my office. They were almost apologetic when calling to give me the estimate and I got the "are you sitting down?" lead in to the conversation. They didn't know I already had another estimate from my previous repair place which was similar so I told them to proceed. The unfortunate thing was that the part was not available in town so had to be ordered, and since it was late in the day, they didn't know if it would be delivered the following day.

What impressed me the most was the fact that they provided me with all the details in a professional way but more importantly gave me with several options as to how we could handle the fact they might need my car for a couple of days to complete the job. They had special pre-negotiated car rental rates if I needed another vehicle to do business, they would arrange for special overnight shipping of the part at no extra cost if if was available, or they would re-assemble my vehicle so that I could use it the next day while they awaited delivery of the part.

It didn't matter who I talked to - the service manager, the secretary, or the owner, they all had the same "customer first" attitude. They all took ownership of my problem, they communicated effectively, they gave me the options, then left it up to me to make the decision. How much did it cost to provide that level of service - nothing, zero, zilch! This was all about attitude. These guys are well coached.

As it turned out the part couldn't make it the next day, I didn't need a rental car due to my schedule, and I arranged for my fiancee to drive me to work for a day. But I felt very good about having had all the options delivered to me and being able to make a quick decision about what to do.

The morning to pickup my car arrived and my fiancee Linda dropped me off. While I went over the work completed with the owner and paid the invoice, the car was pulled around to the front of the building for me. It was sparkling!! They had it washed and cleaned inside and out and looked as good as ever. The owner shook my hand, thanked me for my business and I was off for the day. Boy did I feel good - good enough to write about the experience.

Now how much do you think that car wash cost? My guess is the owner has negotiated with a local car wash a special price based on volume, perhaps $10 or maybe less. Then it takes his secretary (I checked) 10-15 minutes to take it to the car wash. For the sake of a $20-25 investment at most, that business has a very happy client who will continue to service his car there. I will also tell and refer many people as we all do with those businesses who treat us special.

It's a well know axiom that it costs about 5 times as much to generate a new client as to keep an existing one. What does it cost you to generate a new client? Being better not only doesn't cost a lot but it ensures you keep and maintain loyal clients who refer new ones.

Steve, keep doing what you're's working.

I wish Sun Valley Imports every success!

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