The little hardware store.

I’m staying with friends in a city I have never been to before. In part of their little tour of the city, my friends took me to this hardware store downtown. This hardware store has been in the city for quite a while and it is a family owned and operated store. The store is doing well. They have plenty of traffic and plenty of sales. There is a Home Depot about a mile away, but the store still does well. Oh, and the prices are 20% higher. So what does this little hardware store use to stay competitive? You have one guess. Customer service. Ding! Customer service is what the store has used to stay competitive since they were founded.

Better people.
They may charge more, but they seem to use that premium to hire better people. The people I was with mentioned to several employees that they were giving us a tour and the employees all reacted well. They joked, were friendly, and were actual humans (not customer service bots). I think this would be hard to find at a Home Depot or a similar large chain store.

Relationships with customers.
My friend was talking about how he could go into this store with the most obscure bolt and the employees at the store would have no problem finding the right nut to go with it. By having this great service which is not only friendly and courteous, but also effective in “getting the job done”, the store builds a great relationship with its customers.

Price not being an issue.
Since the store has built these great relationships and gained a lot of loyal customers through customer service, price is less of an issue. People who want to get the budget stuff can go to Home Depot, but the service will be totally different. If they want that extra customer service help, they should go to this store. The better service you provide, the less of an issue price becomes.

A strong focus.
This store realizes they can’t compete with Home Depot when it comes to price. They kept their focus on customer service and seem to remain focused. Keeping a focus on one thing (customer service in this case) is extremely important.

Quick lessons.

  • If you are going to charge more, provide something of value (i. e. better service).
  • Pay more to get better employees. And work on developing the talents and skills of those employees. They are an extremely important asset!
  • Build a relationship with your customers. It’ll be well, well worth it in the end.

3 Responses to “The little hardware store.”

  1. Glenn Ross said:

    Jun 15, 07 at 10:42 pm

    Great story. My blog template doesn’t permit trackbacks, but that won’t stop me from manually doing it. http://www.allbusiness.com/sales/customer-service/4301689-1.html

    Regards,

    Glenn

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jun 16, 07 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for the link, Glenn!

  3. Service Untitled » With customer service, price is (almost) a non-issue. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jun 21, 07 at 11:53 am

    […] Nordstrom isn’t the cheapest department store, but people shop there because the customer service is usually great. People don’t really care that the hardware store I talked about is 20% more expensive than Home Depot. A big part of the reason that people stay in the Ritz Carlton instead of the Marriott is because of the customer service. […]