Are local tech shops a dying breed? If so, it’s our fault!

I saw in my inbox this morning a link to an article proposing that “local PC retail and repair shops” may be a thing of the past.  While this may be true, I think it’s our own fault.

As a small-town independent PC repair consultant, I believe the reason people are buying computers and warranties online is not just money.  I think they don’t feel they can depend on the local guy to give them something better.  While I think there are many factors, that’s a deal-breaker.  Now let me explain.

Does anyone watch The Office?  I don’t watch much TV, but I do enjoy that show.  The show focuses on a regional sales office for Dunder-Mifflin, a small paper company that continually fights the ‘big boys’ in order to keep the business with their company (sound like the IT industry?). 

The Dunder-Mifflin salespeople spend their time trying to convince the customer that, although their paper is basically the same as the big boys’, the customer will get better service and a personal touch from Dunder-Mifflin despite the higher price.  Likewise, if IT pros want to be able to keep a job (whether as a consultant, shop owner, or corporate employee), they absolutely MUST be able to convince the customer that their “personal touch” is something that only you can provide.  You do that consistently, and people will pay you well and come back for more.

Let me give some suggestions:

– Answer your phone when it rings. I have called local tech shops and never gotten a response, even after leaving a message. This pretty much confirms I will not do business with them.

– Tell them when you will be there and be there within 5 minutes before the time you quoted. Businesses don’t always like you being there early, with the exception of emergencies. If you are going there for routine maintenance, be there exactly when you said you would.

– Make it personal. Leave a paper trail (business card, invoice) – something that reminds them that you are the very best in your field.

– Say thank you. And mean it. Try to make the very first thing you say to a customer brighten their day. You can’t get off to a better start.

– Learn a lot more than you need to know, but learn how to communicate only what is needed (don’t confuse the office manager with your magnificent knowledge of shell scripting – just be ready and able to rock the socks off their problem).

Another suggestion I would have is to keep expanding what you are able to service.  You may not be able to grow your PC build business, but you can expand into SOHO networking and build small business wireless networks.  Or start a web hosting business.  Take your sales online to increase business.  Learn and grow – that’s what IT is all about anyway.

The bottom line is, IT is an industry of change.  We can’t expect to be able to sit  around and stagnate while staying afloat.

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One Comment on “Are local tech shops a dying breed? If so, it’s our fault!”

  1. Shawn K Says:

    Great post! Lots of great things for me, a young guy in southwest ND, to remember as I try to establish a small town tech biz.

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