Service used to be the number one item on the shelves at your local store. Whether this meant repair of the product sold, dealer support or extra effort shown at the time of sale-it used to be number one. I don’t know what number one is anymore however it often is not service.
Fast food is an easy example. Locally, some fast-food restaurants find it difficult to locate enough employees to even open up their tables to customers. Fast-food is meant to be minimal service for minimal price however some food-service providers now offer only drive-up. On a larger scale, higher wage demands have made automation much more attractive as evidenced by the self-service yogurt shop in East Grand Forks. Drive-up only or automation are tailor-made for those of us who expect little service however it may force those who like concierge service to accept much less-unless they want to go hungry.
Something I have noticed is that an abundance of service or total lack of service has changed Lisa’s and my life. First off, we rarely eat out and tend to go where the service is good. Lisa’s cooking is typically far better than anything we can purchase so, unless convenience or service enters in as a factor, we’d much rather stay home. Maybe that is where a “boutique restaurant” begins. A cook who makes food so well that he/she can charge enough to make a living from a small-enough restaurant, that needs so little staff that the only employees needed are those willing to provide the service that draws the person willing to spend a little more.
Here is where opportunity knocks, valued added service. When I sold beef to my customers, it involved more than just a trade of money for meat. My service included transport to a meat locker, careful attention to details and education. I spent hours telling each customer how the beef was raised, how it should be cut, how it should be processed, how it should be cooked and tried to share my appreciation for the unique flavor of grass-fed beef. I backed my instructions with knowledge; that is education and a value-added experience. When a customer’s food provides a unique experience, then they will pay more. It is the difference between eating at a small, exclusive restaurant versus eating at a cafeteria. It is the “boutique experience” where you are receiving a hand-crafted, service-dense or unique product which satisfies not only your daily needs but creates a memory you can enjoy for a long time.
My wife told me some years ago that I should do most of my projects myself as I am rarely satisfied for that which I pay. This is true with some excellent exceptions. There are many carpenters, electricians, plumbers, machinists and mechanics who are more skilled than I am but few care more about my projects than I. I have a trusted handful (Adam Aehlert, Jamie Miramontes, Pennington Fast Lube, Larson Plumbing, SKalsky Electric) from each one of these groups that I know are super-talented and provide such service that I hope they don’t die before I do. Well that might be a little strong.
The kind of people who pair product and great service are value-added and should price themselves as such. The mechanic who can tell me I have ten thousand more miles before I need to replace a part should earn more than someone who can only replace components. A parts store that can provide installation tips for my pick-up should earn more than the place the sells jugs of unknown stuff and scented trees.
Service has been changing for the last few years and the pace of change will only accelerate in the next few years. Some will take advantage of these changes while others will not like the change at all. For certain, we all will feel the changes unless you eat only at home and your car never breaks down.