At the 2017 NAMM Show, Robert Christie of A&G Central Music shared changes he’s made to his repair business that have improved the customer experience—and the bottom line. Consider the following ideas for your own repair operation, no matter the scale and size of your store. (Watch the video to see the full session.)
Computerize Your Inventory
Get your parts inventory on a computerized system, even if it’s expensive and time-consuming.
• Decide how deep to go. Decide what data you want to track. Use bulk categories for inputting single items.
• Minimum/maximum. Keep an eye on these numbers and adjust when needed.
• JIT. “Just in time” for repair parts doesn’t work well. Instead, create an inventory that lets you provide quick turnaround on bread-and-butter repairs.
• Good record keeping. Make sure you have good data.
• Get the whole story. Check with your sales and repair staff, so you don’t depend solely on computer data.
• Product performance log. You know what parts tend to break most often and what instruments have consistent repair issues. Log that information to discuss with your suppliers and your repair team.
Once you have a computerized inventory system, it’s time to get physically organized in the store. Christie shared that putting all of your repair parts in one place lets you be more efficient. Plus, you don’t want a customer spending more time than necessary looking for a part in your store. You also don’t want to order a part that you already have in stock.
• Used parts. A parts bone pile can be a valuable asset, particularly when customers want a favorite older instrument fixed. Used parts can also be helpful for customers who can’t afford a new part immediately.
• Ordering. Plan for the busy times, such as the summer. When you’re organized enough to order at one time and in advance, you can work with suppliers for extra discounts and free shipping.
Recover Hidden Costs
No matter how organized your repair shop, it’s impossible to account for all of your supplies—unless you find a way to charge for them on the final repair bill. Consider keeping money from running out the doors and windows by charging for miscellaneous supplies as a separate line item.
Take a note from the automotive industry on recovering costs. You can charge a percentage of the total repair bill for miscellaneous supplies, no matter how small or large the repair (how Christie does it), or you can charge a flat rate. Decide what works best for your business.
Budget for Tools and Equipment
Tools and equipment break and wear out. Talk with your repair technicians and suppliers to determine a reasonable expectation for the life of an item. Then, plan to replace it, and put it in your budget. Worn tooling leads to a poor quality repair and can also make the repair take longer. Also, budget for new tooling and equipment advances. Your customers and repair staff will be happy.
Create a Plan for Free Repairs
• Make a bill. You can write “no charge” at the bottom and create goodwill with customers.
• Try a “do something nice” budget. All of Christie’s co-workers get a do-something-nice budget that resets every month. It empowers staff to help customers in a meaningful way without having to get others involved. It’s good for relationship building. It also lets Christie control how much money he’s spending on giveaway business.
• Flat rate versus hourly. Christie said he prefers hourly, even though it’s more expensive.
• Set price list. Flat rates make sense for a job that’s the same every time it’s performed, such as Ultrasonic cleaning. A set price list can give sales staff a little extra ammo and help them think of repair as an add-on sale. They can suggest cleanings to make the instrument perform better and the customer feel good.
Streamline the Estimate Process
Christie advised that estimates are the single most important aspect of creating a positive customer experience and maintaining a profitable repair shop.
• Schedule time for estimates. Have your shop personnel do estimates at the same time every day. Christie’s staff comes in early and does the estimates in the morning. This means A&G’s not constantly pulling techs away from a repair to do an estimate. Customers can also expect an estimate the morning after they drop off an instrument.
• What’s in the estimate? Include everything needed to put that instrument in top working order. “Over-estimate, don’t oversell,” Christie said.
• Who makes the call? A salesperson should make the call to the customer and get the estimate approved. If a customer wants to speak with a repair tech for more detailed information, that request can be handled immediately.
• Use your records. Refer to your customer’s records to alleviate potential repeat problems and provide outstanding customer service.
• Don’t miss an opportunity. The estimate can be the lead-in to sales opportunities.
Ensure the Customer Experience
Satisfied customers won’t suffice; you want loyal customers. If you make a promise to the customer, fulfill it. Do free repairs sometimes. Use your product performance log to help educate customer in a tactful way. Remind your customers why you’re awesome. Create and distribute repair fliers to let people know what you do and why you’re good at it.