Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2013   by Andrew Ross


Jobbers who have waded uncertainly into the retail pool may have had a gift handed gradually to them over the past few years.

The cheapening of the value of the retail professional – replaced often by the lowest wage earners possible, usually on a casual employment basis – and fewer and fewer of the good ones left on the floor (as big box and small box retailers took a hit from the consumer spending drop over the past few years) has really hit the retail shopping experience hard.

Prices may be a bit lower, in some cases, but while quality experience proponents and industry research alike continually reinforce the value of “exciting and delighting customers,” the reality is quite different.

You have to look very hard to find the “delightful” retail shopping experience these days. Yes, it happens, but more often than not the experience is at the other end of the spectrum.

Walk through virtually any major retail establishment and you will find the shortcomings of our self-serve retail world coming home to roost: countless shoppers standing around, staring blankly at walls of product; others with an item in one hand, looking forlornly up and down aisles for someone to help them decide.

Sure, they seem to be saying, I want a good price, but what I really want is to get the right stuff and get the heck out of here and get on with my life. Too often, they are hoping in vain, as they will be off to Store Number Two to find the product that they weren’t able to find at Store Number One. By the time they’re done, they might find themselves with no time left to actually do the job they bought the supplies for.

On any given weekend, you’ll find these wandering souls spending their time buying, when what they really want is to spend their time doing the job they’re buying the stuff for.

For many Canadians, the retail experience has become an awful experience, even as our understanding of what that does to the retailer’s bottom line has become so much greater.

And that is precisely what presents savvy jobbers with such a great opportunity.

The bar has been set so low by the cumulative experience of so many consumers that if you can just get them the parts they need – all the parts they need – at a reasonable price without subjecting them to a migraine-inducing experience, they will be blown away. And they’ll tell their friends and associates about it.

It may be a sad statement about the state of our retail environment, but as always, winning is as much about taking advantage of others’ failings as it is about being excellent.

Now this isn’t a licence to be lazy and inconsiderate; you should still strive for excellence, but you should understand too that your reach should always exceed your grasp. The reality is that in the current environment, you just don’t have to be that great to be better than so many others.

Let your staff do what they do best: fulfill parts orders, and fill the gaps in service and parts where you see them, but don’t make competing on retail price the whole focus of your retail strategy.

It doesn’t make sense when what the consumer wants more than anything else is to get on their way with confidence they have what they need. You can do that, charge fairly for it, and end up with a happy customer who walks out the door in only a few minutes.

And, in a world where happy retail customers are in such short supply, that’s a pretty delightful result.

—Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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