A few weeks ago, a reader of this post commented that she often doled out free advice regarding energy efficiency at parties – er, at parties she doled out free advice re energy efficiency. Which reminds me, if I’m in a room of non-geeks, you know, normal people, and describe what I do, suddenly they need another drink or a trip to the lady’s room. For this objective, being a veterinarian would be far more beneficial. But back to the comment of free advice, my response was, “Don’t be showroomed.”
I would bet that the word showroom, as a verb, does not exist in Webster’s. Showrooming is going to the local store to try things out – see how it fits, feels, sounds, looks – and then googling or amazoning for a lower price elsewhere. My first thought is, these people are freeloaders, but maybe not. A brick and mortar joint has a distinct advantage over cyber joints such that they can avoid, or greatly mitigate, showrooming. They have people in the flesh right there to help customers. The drawbacks of brick and mortar, to me, are hassle. I have to drive there and deal with the masses of doofuses, lack of selection, and get this – lack of help.
I remember when The Home Depot moved into town, and I thought they would run Menard’s into the ground. Well, it wasn’t long before Home Depot ground me down because finding someone who actually worked there was like looking for a priest in a giant liquor warehouse. Needless to say, it has been years since I’ve been to The Home Depot.
This article provides some interesting statistics and means to avoid showrooming. Not far from the beginning of the article, it says the most important factor in purchasing decisions is price. Those customers are naïve and are not the folks we want to sell to.
Here’s the thing to me as a customer: if the product I am looking for is not expensive in the first place – say headlights for my car – I’m pulling the trigger right away at Amazon.com. I don’t give a rip if some other place might have them for a dollar cheaper. For more expensive things, like computer monitors, I’ll look at customer reviews and pull the trigger. Again, I don’t care if Wal Mart has a cheaper 21 inch monitor than Amazon’s Viewsonic.
When I start getting into things that are reparable, service is huge to me. This is the “unique selling proposition”, Ms. Cohen describes.
Story: Not all “buy local” is created equally. We purchased new appliances with our new house a dozen years ago. Several summers ago, of course during the hottest time of the year, the ice cream could barely support a spoon. It was mush. The freezer wasn’t working. I called Sears where I purchased the thing. The local store? Noooooo. It was an 800 number to a call center in Greece or somewhere. “We can get someone out there to take a look at it on the 12th.” (this was around July 4) It cost $125 for the guy just to show up at my doorstep. Waiting and I don’t get along. That was a terrible experience. It took forever; it cost too much; and the seller didn’t really give a damn.
A couple years later, the fan in my freezer crapped out. A modern refrigerator/freezer doesn’t work without a fan. This time, I’m calling some local appliance repair schmucks. Get this: their response is, “Our guys are really busy, but we do have a call in the area in the afternoon. Is later today ok?” I almost laughed out loud. THESE people have high expectations. Yeow! I won’t be calling the Sears leviathan or buying their junk again.
Finally, as things get more complex, particularly for energy efficiency consulting, what do you want? Low price? Only the foolish and “unsophisticated” buyer falls for that. Someone will always do something for less. Here are some things to consider:
- Reputation – What do their customers and clients say? Is the seller begging the buyer to check references? BTW, I hire people, and when I check references, I don’t call the ones the candidates give me. I call others.
- Desire – The greatest athlete in the history of the universe, Michael Jordan, when the championship was on the line, could not be stopped with a triple team, or Carl Malone’s forearm and elbow. When you triple team one guy, two guys are unguarded. He had the physical ability, but more importantly, he had the unbelievable, unstoppable “zone” that he could turn on long enough to win. Six for six championships. Tongue out; game over. How bad does bidder want the job?
- Why? – Why does the bidder want the job? Do they want the job because they are desperate and hanging on by a thread? Are they owned by venture capitalists who would charge $3 for a bottle of water after the tornado leveled the town? Does the bidder want the job to prove themselves?
- The end – Will the bidder be around when it hits the fan? Will they blame or will they fix? Do they know how to fix? What if things don’t work out as projected? This feeds the first bullet – reputation.