Focus on the Customer

Focusing on the customer is almost always the right place to start.

Whenever you are thinking about changes in strategy, marketing, or other policies that could affect the customer, try to error on the side of doing what benefits your customers. When the customer wins, you will likely win.

In 1978, when I opened, we didn’t guarantee parts. AT ALL. That was the standard in the industry. In hindsight, how dumb was that? Why would anyone try to replace a failed part with a used one with no warranty? We quickly moved to a 30-day warranty, irritating our competitors because they said the customers would take advantage of yards that offered warranties. REALLY? The customers want to buy defective parts? We marked the parts to make sure any that were returned were actually ours. I am sure some customers disassembled parts to make sure our mark was on the part they returned. In any case, today the minimum standard is usually 12 months, and the smartest operators also sell extended and labor warranties. These policies benefit the customer and they buy more and tell others about us.

In your marketing, do you think about advertising things that benefit the customer? Discounts can be good, but most customers think you mark things up so you can discount them. Many are more focused on quality and speed of delivery. Do you offer delivery service from a box truck with full service, meaning the customer never has to do anything except give you a purchase order or money? There’s a reason they use your competitor with those big, clean box trucks and pallet jacks on board and pay more!

Considering new methods to pull parts or fill orders? Think about how to better serve the customer as part of those discussions; don’t just focus on how to save you money. In many cases, you can save money and improve service. Look at your ad. Does it make you want to come buy from you?

Pricing of merchandise ­— I see yards so myopic about getting every nickel that they take all the latitude away from their sales staff to cut prices. The best yard management systems for recyclers prompt the salesperson about whether he or she should cut prices, based on supply and requests and past sales. Those same computers tell the owner that salesperson A gets 96% of the screen price 100% of the time, while others get 90% or less. Yet that salesperson is being admonished because he or she didn’t get enough for a given part. Think about what benefits the customer (lowered prices), in the context of training salespersons when to cut and when not to cut, and everyone will win.

Use a mystery shopper to understand the customer experience. Prepare an objective way to measure the results, with points for asking for the customer’s name, mentioning warranty, and of course, most importantly, asking for the sale. You will likely be amazed at how poorly phones are handled. Why would you come again?

In the old days, we owned the customer. But today, they have so many other options; we don’t own or control anything. The outcome we want, sales, is more difficult than ever before. We must focus on the customer and their experience if we expect to ring the register. Those who deliver the best experience consistently are likely to be the market leaders.

Remember only you can make business great!

Ron Sturgeon, Mr. Mission Possible, has been a successful business owner for more than 35 years. As a small business consultant, he can deliver wisdom and advice gleaned from an enviable business career that started when he opened a VW repair business as a homeless 17-year-old and culminated in the sale of several businesses he built to Fortune 500 companies.

Ron has helped bankers, lawyers, insurance agents, restaurant owners, and body shop owners, as well as countless salvage yard owners to become more successful business people. He is an expert in helping small business owners set the right business strategies, implement pay-for- performance, and find new customers on the web.

As a consultant, Ron shares his expertise in strategic planning, capitalization, compensation, growing market share, and more in his signature plainspoken style, providing field-proven, and high-profit best practices well ahead of the business news curve. Ron is the author of nine books, including How to Salvage More Millions from Your Small Business.

To inquire about consulting or keynote speaking, contact Ron at 817-834-3625, ext. 232, rons@MrMissionPossible.com5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117.