Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Family-Owned Business Offers Best Service

Saturday, my husband and I had the chance to compare the service of a big box store and a family-owned business. I've been wanting to switch to an energy- and water-saving washer and dryer for a couple of years. I read Consumer Reports, shopped around, perused ads and finally decided to take the plunge. (Hey, I could help the economy at the same time.)

We went to Best Buy and had to wait for a sales person to be free. To complete the sale, we had to hear the pitch for the extra warranty. But the trouble started as soon as we said we needed to vent the dryer on the side -- not the back. Our sales person had no idea how to put that request into the system. She had to call the head of the department. He had to call Samsung (the manufacturer). They had to sell us a special part, and we would have pay extra for it to be installed by the person would would install the dryer at our house. (They had to go hunt for the part.) But they still weren't sure exactly how all this was going to happen or if this was the right course of action. They called in former sales people who had been promoted to flat-screen TVs. They did Google searches on the computer while we stood there. Soon, four sales people were standing around discussing what they should do.

My husband and I just looked at each other and said, "Forget it." We walked out of the store empty-handed. After a bit of calming down and going shoe shopping, we decided to go to a local family-owned store where we had purchased appliances in the past. It's called Aitoro. I hadn't gone there for because their Web site isn't very useful or informative, and they had remodeled the store during the boom to look very upscale. The formerly modest store now featured very fancy new kitchens designed to cater to the hedge-fund employees who live in our area. I was scared that Aitoro was now just catering to the wealthy extreme.

We walked in five minutes before closing. The saleswoman who greeted us as we entered helped us immediately. She saw I had Consumer Reports and encouraged me to look up the ratings as she showed us the various models they had. She questioned us on our needs.

Then she showed us a G.E. washer and dryer at a sale price plus rebates. The washer was Consumer Reports' top pick. Side venting of the dryer? NO PROBLEM! They service the machines themselves and had someone on-site who would install the needed part and get the dryer ready to go within the week. "We'll take the pair," we said.

By now, it was well after closing time. But our saleswoman didn't rush us. "We close when we stop making sales," said one of the other sales people, who was selling a new kitchen to another person.

As we walked out of the store, I realized what a key component superior customer service is to the sales process. Personal attention, care, knowledge all go into closing a sale. Family-owned businesses can just do this better, in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

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