Promises Kept

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Since the beginning of time, the quick-rich artists have been preying upon the something-for-nothing masses. For those of you either grossly naïve or brand-new to motorcycling, in this (service) industry there is a wide disparity in job quality. You do have a choice.

One simple idea or goal of our organization which overrides all others must be QUALITY. Do it right or don't do it at all. Produce (or sell) the best you possibly can and stand behind it ... with pride.

Setting strong standards, our discipline, the equipment we use and the techniques we employ provide the foundation for our reputation of excellence. At Love Cycles, quality is not an accident. You may count on courteous service, highest-quality materials in our products and the finest craftsmanship available ... because we, too, made a choice. — Paul Wünsch, Love Cycles, Houston, Texas, 1988

Quality has been an issue in the news, thanks to all the recalls. At what point will Americans consider a price "too cheap"? The simple answer is when it bites them in the ass — or, more formally, when the risk outweighs the reward.

Is your store going away from quality customer service and the sale of premium (or middle-priced) products because of the seemingly endless race to the bottom on price? Maybe it's not too late to reconsider.

Paul Wünsch, owner of Love Cycles and a Dealernews columnist, passed away in 2003. What "Uncle Paul" left behind was a fresh look at not only the service business but retail in general.

He even created what he called a "customer contract." If you wanted to be a customer of Love Cycles in Houston, you had to sit down and read his three-page contract on how he was going to do business with you. It was basic shop policy about service department priorities, emergency repairs, compromises for price, payment, deposits, etc., but it also covered his commitment to excellence.

The contract worked both ways: from shop to customer and back again. No assumptions. It was all in writing, and you were guaranteed to get what you paid for.

Uncle Paul's mug shot appeared in the contract with the caption, "If Love Cycles isn't the best damned shop in the country, it's this man's fault." Paul took responsibility for everything and everyone in his store. He was "the man," and all his customers knew it. Approachable. Loveable. Disciplined. Communicative. Uncompromising. Fair. Unmatched. Guaranteed to be cheaper — but only in the long run.

Customers loved him. He defended quality work and quality materials because both he and customers had choices.

The race to the bottom on price was fraught with peril. If you wanted to play that game with Uncle Paul, it was considered "breach of contract," and he would disown you as a customer. Being blackballed by Paul labeled you as a cheap bastard in the local powersports community.

Marketing claims often surpass reality, so customers must be able to trust your opinion. There is a plethora of cheaper manufacturers entering the market every day. Do they have the infrastructure needed to support their brands?

There will always be a retailer selling cheaper than you, too. Plan on how you will sell around them and how your products and services will add value. If you expect your customers to always desert you for the lower price down the street, then you have lost confidence in your ability to deliver a quality product and a message. Take advice from Uncle Paul, and take control.

Your customers don't know what's good for them. Tell them. Explain exactly what you do better than the rest. Don't assume. Sell the added value — the expert advice, the returns, the guarantee, the exchange, the selection, the convenience, the face-to-face confidence.

Eric Anderson is the self-proclaimed "Big Stinger" of Scorpion Sports. Contact him at eric@scorpionusa.com.