Apr 02, 2007
by JIM KRESS of Central Oregon Community College
Wow…the world of retail sure has become competitive lately! It seems as though there are enough big box stores in town so we could each have one of our own. How does the small independent retailer compete with the large chains and all their advertising and buying power? Here is a local example of one who does it quite well.
This past year, I painted the outside of my house. I probably should have done it sooner. But hey, I live in central Oregon, and there is so much else to do! I had shopped at Denfeld Paints before and had always been happy with their service. Some people think of them as a store only for commercial painters. I have found them equally accommodating to the retail customer.
So, once again I found great sales help, an excellent selection of products at varying price points, and an approach to customer service that tells me they completely understand that they are in the problem-solving business. These folks are passionate about paint! To begin with, the staff members all have experience as painters. This on-the-job experience makes them invaluable in understanding the challenges their customers face and helps them in making the correct recommendation for the unique problems facing each customer.
Realizing the problems I had created for myself by not painting as often as I should, they recommend some great products to help prepare the surface. A special sealer would help close the split wood so the new paint would bond for a very long time. When it came to selecting the paint, they gave me a large number of options and took the time to answer the many (and I do mean many) questions I had. Although they were busy, with a line of customers who I am sure were professional painters waiting to get back to the job, I never felt rushed. When you are knowledgeable and experienced, you can be very efficient in the selling and service process.
They got me a great Pittsburgh paint that makes my home look its best in years. I felt as though I had just bought a new home. And when I had trouble with a spray rig, they were quick to fix it to keep my "weekend project" on schedule.
It's clear to me that Denfeld's provides the best in customer service. We expect that of independent retailers. When I was all done, I took my list of purchases to one of the box stores and compared the price. Denfeld's was cheaper-and by quite a bit. The paint prices were similar, but the big difference came in the caulking, plastic, brushes and rollers.
The reality that the independent retailer needs to remember is that the box stores have spent millions of dollars creating an image of being less expensive. They are experts at marketing. Independents can create that competitive and fair price image with their customers as well.
Using sales or volume purchase promotions at the right time of year, along with factory rebates, and combined with a great group of effective employees, you can compete with the giants.
Take a long look at your staff. What experience do they have using the products they sell? How strong are their skills in not just moving customers through the line, but in making the customer feel that they are there for them and helping them have a great shopping experience? How much time has your company spent this past year training the staff in strong customer service skill development?
If you want to see it done well, go paint your house (or a room). Stop by and see one of the staff at Denfeld Paints and see how it's done. I can hardly wait to paint the inside of my house!
Jim Kress provides marketing and retail training at Central Oregon Community College. He can be reached at 383-7712.