It’s a sad fact that service and repair, even in these days of eco-awareness and save-the-earth fanaticism, is declining. Still there is much worth in neighbourhood repair shops, especially those attached to retailers.
First there are the profits from the actual repairs. In the light of sky-high charges by garages, dentists, plumbers, vets and others, the typical cost of a repair in 2007 is not regarded as high by customers. We average £90-£100 for repair of a large CRT TV (including VAT but not transportation), and find plenty of takers at that level. As local repair facilities decline, customers regard the skills and services on offer as increasingly precious. Where can they now get an old audio unit looked at, a VHS machine mended to facilitate transfer of precious recordings to disc, a widescreen TV of obscure make restored to life? Carefully managed, a repair workshop can pay its way well, cushioned, when for any reason a repair is aborted, by a non-refundable up-front charge (see IER February 2007, p 42).
We are now increasingly seeing customers who, unimpressed with the picture quality of LCD and plasma, want their big widescreen CRT sets repaired at almost any price; people with equipment bought on the Internet not knowing where to turn for after-sales help; and those who don’t have a clue on how to hook up and commission complex gear when it comes out of its cardboard boxes.
Direct benefits and profits aside, an inhouse (or nearby) service department can render much benefit to the retail side of the business. Merely ‘being there’, available with screwdrivers and meters, makes a good incentive for the customer to buy from the associated shop, especially amongst more mature people and those whose TV sets or whatever have just broken down and been seen by a technician. It’s strange how people tend to trust him, his opinions and recommendations more than those of sales staff, who they may regard as pushy, commissiondriven, glib or lacking in product knowledge. In the case of independent dealers that’s seldom true, but even so it can be seen thus. A special case arises when something has irretrievably broken down: the engineer can steer its owner towards buying from the shop, maybe with a little incentive in the form of a partial refund of the service charge.
Sales on the side
The technician can also score highly in terms of sales of accessories and consumables, particularly if he visits customers in their homes – and I don’t just mean aerial flyleads and cable tidies. Problem solvers, lifestyle enhancers and indulgences can all be the sales province of the engineer; some accessories carry large profit margins, and can be dispensed from the service van or ordered from specialist suppliers like CPC and Keene Electronics for next-day delivery. Into these categories come things like digital coupling cords and switchers; special connectors and cables of all sorts, especially on the home cinema front, where exotic remote controls – perhaps with three-figure price tags – can also be sold by one enthusiast to another. The engineer’s technical insight opens the way to sales of gadgetry and bolt-ons like wireless video senders, distribution amplifiers, CCTV cameras and even video editing software and interfaces to polish up the footage from the camcorder.
Last but not least is the value of help available from a technician-on-hand to staff and customers, easing life on the one hand and generating goodwill on the other. Instant tests of batteries, remote control handsets and the like; first-line servicing (lens cleaning, software setting, pre-tuning etc) of high-tech equipment; vetting of guarantee-claim equipment before it’s sent away for service.
With his knowledge, his meter, screwdriver, soldering iron and PC, an engineer generates a fund of goodwill which is an asset to any AV business. Treasure him!