Beating the Big-Box Retailers: Customer Service, Quality Products Trump Lower Prices

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By Rachel Adams

At Garage Door Guru in Charlotte, N.C., owner Paul Cardone knows how to stay connected with his technicians and customers. Customers will never be directed to an answering service, and technicians are always up-to-date via company iPads and direct communication with the boss on a daily basis. Staying connected is just one way the company leaps ahead of its competition.

In addition to competing with other dealers in his market, Cardone must also face off with the low prices and big names of large retailers like The Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement. These stores have a limited selection of garage doors and are marketed mainly to do-it-yourselfers, but do offer installation services for a fee. And while the large retailers have the name consumers know and the prices they like, they lack many of the qualities professional garage door dealers bring to the table, including excellent customer service and superior product quality and selection.

Herb Gross, an industry sales and marketing consultant, says focusing on these advantages and marketing them are a door dealer’s best strategies for standing out in a crowded market. “Make a list of the advantages your garage door company offers as compared to the competition,” he says. This might include your dealership’s wide selection and quality of doors, speed of service, same-day service, emergency service, commitment to customer satisfaction, number of years in business or even being locally or family owned. “I’ll bet you could come up with quite a list,” Gross says. “Put it in writing, make it into a leave-behind brochure for customers, and put it on your website.”

Customer Service Counts

All door dealers will agree offering superior customer service can be a crucial advantage when competing with large retailers. "Customer service plays a huge role with our company," says Shannon Gilbertson, vice president of Gilbertson Doors Systems, a dealer servicing the Minneapolis market. “We treat every customer as if he was a part of our family and give him the best possible service we can offer.”

John Wester, owner of Ace Garage Door Co. in Edmond, Okla., agrees customer service is a key to being a market leader. “Our customers are everything for us," he says. "I can spend $50,000 a year on advertising, but if I can't take care of that customer and have a happy customer, I won't be around.”

Ace Garage Door takes customers service to the next level by offering a two-year parts and labor warranty on a new door, including any adjustments. Ace keeps all customer information on file to make the process as simple as possible for customers.

Good customer service can also include speedy service. “We try to be professional, friendly and above all fast,” Cardone says. “When the calls come in, we try to handle them all in the same day and start each day new with a fresh schedule.”

In the garage door industry, good customer service is also about service, literally. Often times, large retailers won't service a garage door after its purchased and installed. If they do, more often than not, the door will not be serviced on the same day as the call, sometimes not even in the same week.

Cardone argues that large retailers can be the easiest competition to beat because of these reasons. "No one wants to wait three weeks to solve their garage door emergency," he says. "No one wants an unreliable garage door made mainly of plastic parts. No one wants to wait on hold when they call about their door only to be transferred to a different department, or only to be met with the guy who no longer has incentive to help you because it's really not his name on the job or he's already been paid.”

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