From the Desk of Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

It was just an experiment, but recently I fell into the big black hole that is "customer service" at a local big box store. During a visit to a local box store for some plumbing supplies two weeks back, I decided to stroll over to the lawn and garden section to see what equipment they had to offer and more so to see what sort of assistance I might get.

They had a modest selection of 12 or so walk-behind mowers from 3 or 4 manufacturers and I did my best to appear to be an interested customer weighing his options. I hovered in the area a good 10 minutes, spent time on each mower looking at the specs and tried to appear like someone weighing his purchase options. My hope was to engage someone enough to have them give me the breakdown of why I'd choose one over another, but not a single employee engaged me, so I couldn't even hazard a guess as to what anyone's level of expertise was.

Granted it was a busy weekend morning, but I saw plenty of orange vests strolling around and I would've accepted at least the token gesture of "Someone will be with you in just a moment." But I got nothing.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My mower blade has long since outlived its usefulness so I headed out to buy a replacement and figured I'd go back to the big box to give them a chance to redeem themselves. No such luck. Not only did they not have the blade I needed, but I again couldn't get anyone to talk to me so I'd have the opportunity to ask if I was looking in the wrong spot or if the blade was simply out of stock. To be fair, I didn't flag anyone down to ask those questions, but as the customer I felt that responsibility laid more with them than with me and like my last experience, it was a busy weekend morning, but there were a good number of staff roaming the aisles.

With the same mission of a replacement blade in mind, I headed to the closest independently owned hardware store/lawn & garden center to see whether I'd have any better luck. It's a bit further away from my home than the big box, but I've shopped there regularly in the past and knew with some certainty I’d have better luck.

I was no more than two steps through the door when I was greeted with "Can I help you find something." I explained what I was after and not only was I not simply pointed down to aisle whatever, the sales consultant walked me over to where the blades were kept, asked me for make, model number and the size of my mower. I was walking out the door in less than 5 minutes with exactly what I needed.

Better still, I was leaving having had an extremely positive experience and an interest in continuing to give them my business.

In the Spring issue of Rural Lifestyle Dealer, Dave Schroeder of Schroeder Implement refers to service as being his "ace in the hole" over the box stores. Service happens before, during and after the sale and if you and your team are doing things the right way, you'll create that positive experience that will keep customers coming back to you whether you're closer than the big box or not.

For those customers, "convenience" will have less to do with being closer and more to do with trusting that, when they come into your dealership, you and your staff will take the time to meet their equipment needs and expectations.

Michael Ellis,
Rural Lifestyle Dealer