One evening, while sitting on the patio conversing, I mentioned to my wife that I’d taken a ride to the (not so local) hobby store, but they didn’t have what I wanted.
I added it was a pleasant trip, but the goal of obtaining the needed part had not been satisfied. I went on to add the bottom line of my adventure meant another online purchase (something that never makes her happy). I’m really not blaming the store. I was wrapped up in a scale project for the upcoming warbirds season, and although not that oddball of a gizmo, it really wasn’t the sort of item today’s hobby store will inventory on a regular basis.
As the conversation continued, I mentioned to Cindy that she has really progressed from her bout with Legionnaire’s Disease and the effects of a long term coma. Back on top of her game I asked if she’d ever considered opening a hobby store, which I feel is needed in our area of SW Florida, and with the right ownership would prosper. Her answer did not surprise me. I knew that as much as she loved the hobby industry, and the people associated with the industry, she had put it in her past and was moving forward with her new career, but what did surprise me was her reason. I figured the long hours and never ending fight with margins and income versus expenses to be the reason for her lack of interest in opening a store, but I wasn’t even close.
“It’s the lack of customer loyalty that destroyed my interest in the hobby industry. I would do everything possible to satisfy a customer’s needs, and to express his gratitude for my service he’d shop elsewhere.” Cindy went on to talk about how her father, Al, had ingrained the thoughts of the return for good customer service was customer loyalty, but that was no longer the case with hobbies, “It seems like the notion of loyalty is something hobby people are no longer interested in, hobbyists are only loyal to themselves and they’ll screw over their best friend if it means a penny.”
I can see where this would have an adverse affect on any number of people associated with our industry. I for one have never demanded loyalty, that’s a ridiculous concept, but during my previous career I felt the return for loyalty was indeed loyalty. Not alone in this thinking I can see where working with a customer, especially one who might be considered a friend, only to be ignored as his interests grow and expand would have a very negative impact on many hobby dealers. I can hear the minds of many dealers grinding as they read this and utter comments like “I hope that guy never comes in looking for a deal again.”
Our conversation did not end with the question of Cindy opening her own store. When Cindy first moved on and went to work for Harley Davidson, something I said, which I’m sure some of you have heard, “Hobbies or Harley’s, customer service is customer service.” To that end, consumers of these products are extremely loyal, not only to the brand, but to personnel within the industry. This means their local dealer and in Cindy’s case, customer service. She already has a large following of customers who, when they request service, will only speak to her. They are her customers, and if they have a problem she goes out of her way to see to it that it is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, something she, and the customer, both find very satisfying.
Am I suggesting dealers close their doors in search of loyalty? Absolutely not, nothing could be further from my mind, but as time passes, and I hear dealers express not only the good times they have running their businesses, but also when they vent their frustrations, it helps to understand there is quite a bit more going on than the lack of profitable margins.
Until next month,