What Lane Are You In? Is It Customer Service?

There are some companies that are recognized for their customer service. It’s their focus, they have built their brands around it, and they’re good at it. You could say they “stay in their lane.” Some examples would be Ace Hardware (think helpful), Nordstrom and Zappos. Are these companies known for being the low price leader? No, but that doesn’t mean that they are overpriced. They compete fairly on price, but they deliver added value with their customer service. They are in the customer service lane.

Of course, these companies do have promotions and sales. I have found great buys at Nordstrom’s semi-annual sales. But their main focus is not on sales and discounted items. It’s the experience, and whether you shop during the sale or any other time, you get the Nordstrom experience.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Dollar Stores. Their main goal is to offer an incredibly low-priced product. What you don’t find there, though, are sales experts greeting you at the door like you would at Ace Hardware, for example. The people are friendly as you interact with them at the cash register where they take your money and bag up your purchase. And that’s OK. It is part of their plan. Low prices are their focus, and they too, stay in their lane.

I started thinking about all this when I heard that Radio Shack had decided to close about 20 percent of its stores. Closing low-volume stores could be a savvy business move for a retail company, but it has been reported for some time that the business is struggling. Radio Shack was once a retail industry icon, so what happened? I may not have all the answers to that, but I do have a theory about what contributed to its current situation.

First let me say that I love Radio Shack and have great memories of going there as a kid to get items for cool projects (OK, maybe I was a bit of a geek). I still visit Radio Shack on occasion to purchase electronic accessories. Something has changed though. When I visit their store in the mall today I don’t get the same impression that I did as a kid. You know, that they sold things that weren’t available anywhere else – batteries, wires, cables. It was a cool place to find just what you needed. Do they still have that “cool” factor and offer hard-to-find items for electronics, phones and TVs? Are they the stores that come to mind when you are in the market for electronic items? Somewhere along the way, they switched lanes, but I’m not sure what lane they’re in now.

This is just an observation that made me think of companies that struggle because they can’t choose a lane and stay in it. Radio Shack may struggling to find its lane, and this just highlights the importance of that focus.

The companies I mentioned earlier – Ace Hardware, Nordstrom, Zappos – are not weaving around in traffic, shall we say. There is no confusion. We know what lane they are in and what they stand for. The same goes for the Dollar Stores and Walmart. Whereas the customer-service focused companies are firmly in their lane, the low-price stores are as well, and it works for them. There are yet other companies that stick to their chosen lane of industry-specific merchandise or very high-end merchandise.

So, what lane are you in? Did the answer come to mind easily? Hopefully it did for you and would for your customers as well. You can change lanes in business. It isn’t illegal and you won’t get a ticket. But it must be done with caution or you will confuse the customer. This remind me of the saying: “A confused customer won’t buy.”

(By the way, if you know who said, “A confused mind won’t buy,” let me know. Our search for the source of this quote didn’t give us a definitive answer.)

Vertical Blinds Are a Great Investment

Vertical blinds are an affordable, stylish way to filter or block light, stop drafts and increase privacy. Here’s what you need to know about them before you make a purchase.

Vertical blinds are most commonly used as patio door blinds, but they also work very well for wide windows. You can choose from the easier-to-clean vinyl vertical blinds, or have your blinds match your decor perfectly with fabric vertical blinds. Faux wood and perforated blinds are also available. It usually costs around $200 for vertical blinds for a window 66 wide x 84 high or 78 inches wide and 84 inches high. A window 104 inches wide and 100 inches high would be about $300.

You can get custom-made blinds from any Lowe’s with same day turnaround. They also offer a special kind of vertical blind — “S-curve” that makes the blinds look more like drapes than standard vertical blinds do.

Extra Features You Might Want

Self-lubricating wheels help the blinds’ tracks move smoothly without you having to get out the WD40.

UV Coating can make the color of your blinds last much longer without fading. If you live at high altitude, where UV light is more intense, or in a southern climate where overall light intensity is strong, having UV coating, especially on blinds that are anything other that white might be worth some extra money.

Wand Control Versus Chain Control

There are two mechanisms, or ways to open and close the blinds and control how much light comes through between the vanes.

Cord and chain controls are standard and wand control is the newer, more advanced option. Cord and chain controls let you have separate controls for vertical movements — the fabric or cord is used to move the vanes horizontally, or back and forth along the headrail that goes over the top of the window. So you would use the cord to completely pull back the blinds from the window and see through the glass.

The metal chain is used to control the angle of the vanes, so you use the chain to control how much light comes through the blinds with them still drawn together. Cord and chain controls are considered a wee bit more dangerous than wand control because of the cord dangling down near the ground where children and pets sometimes get interested in them and then tangled in them.

For wand control, you twist the wand to control how far apart the vanes of the vertical blind are, and you pull the wand along the headrail to open or close the blinds as you wish.

Motorized Vertical Blinds

Hunter Douglas and other major blind manufacturers make motorized blinds that open and close with a remote control. The motorized option is also available for their “gliding window panels”, which are vertical blinds grown large — a foot wide each, and they can be sized to go floor to ceiling. This can be an excellent choice in a room that would overheat from afternoon sun if the blinds were left open.

Popular Vertical Blind Brands and Retailers

You can get blinds from Lowes, Levolor, Kmart, Hunter Douglas, Smith and Noble, Target, JCPenney, Ace Hardware, Walmart and Overstock.com. Depending on the retailer, the time of year and what kind of sales are going on, you can spend as little as $80 to more than $400 for a patio door window.

Writing Auto Estimates is Like Going to Walmart – Auto Estimator Training For Beginners

The Estimating Guide
Once we have all of the information needed from the vehicle we can take the estimate into the estimating office or area where we can complete and total the auto estimate. The estimating guide will provide a list of the parts with diagrams, the price of the parts, the flat rate labor to replace the parts (judgment time is not-included in the estimating guides, we’ll discuss judgment time later) and the refinish flat rate to paint the parts if needed.

Parts and Abbreviations
It is very important to know the nomenclature of the parts and the abbreviations of the parts. You must also realize that parts may be called different things. A door outer repair panel may be how the guide describes what we know in body shop jargon, door skin. However, it is going to make it difficult to find the right parts if you do not have a clue what they are called. A couple of abbreviations that I am going to mention are R&I,which stands for remove and install. This is when you remove a part and put the same part back on. For example, there may not be any damage to a door, but it may have to be removed to gain access to the damaged area. Therefore, you will not have to remove the trim panel, glass, door handle, etc. This will be less flat rate than to replace the door.. If you replace the door that is called R&R, which stands for remove and replace. Now you will have to transfer all of the hardware from the old door to the new door, which is going to take more time. Many times on front bumper covers and other assemblies they have an O/H, which stands for overhaul. This basically gives you time to take the assembly completely apart and to put it back together.

Look at your P-Pages and to learn all of the abbreviations. This is something that will help you. You don’t just want you to memorize what they stand for, but you want to understand what does each abbreviation includes or does not include in the tasks.

Think About Walmart When Writing Estimates
What is included and what is not included in each operation? This is something that you need to ask yourself every time you add a line to your estimate. This is where most mistakes are made when writing an estimate, which results in dollars lost for the shop. There are tons of non-included operations that go unclaimed on most estimates. Many times the estimator claims they do not put it on the estimate because the insurance company will not pay for it. There is some truth behind this story, but it is usually because they did not write it on the estimate correctly. You must itemize each procedure if you plan to get paid for it. It is like going to Walmart. Have you ever went to Walmart and gathered a bunch of items in your cart, then went to check out; then they give you the amount, which almost gives you a heart attack? Well, lets take this one step further, what if they gave you receipt with just the total amount on it? You would probably claim that they made a mistake. However, when you get the itemized receipt, you look it over and realize all of the prices are correct. It just added up to more than you thought it would. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but it happens to me all of the time. Insurance adjusters are the same way. If it is not crystal clear what you are charging for, they want to claim that it is not right and they do not want to pay that amount…I sure wish I could do that at the store! However, if you have every item listed separate and not bulged together, they can see that your charges are legitimate. So to determine what non included operations you can add to your estimate look in your p-pages. This will list everything that is included and everything that is not included. I recommend that you take some time and study the p-pages and know them by heart.

Barn Door Home Construction

Are you trying to work on home construction? Are you a construction worker? If you are, you might find yourself in a sticky situation: how does one build a barn?

Not all construction workers have had experience with dealing with barns. Barns are a different sort of beast than other home improvement needs. Because it is a larger size, and because the doors need to be specially made and fit, you sometimes can have trouble finding the hardware you need. In this article, I’m going to help explain some ways to get ahold of specialty barn door hardware needs.

The first thing you should do, when looking for barn door hardware, is to check your local hardware stores. Call up Lowe’s, and WalMart, Home Depot, and ask them if they have your products in stock. Oftentimes, they will, and if they don’t, they will most likely be able to direct you to locations that do.

Be sure that you know exactly what you need! Make measurements and have all the details ready so that the hardware stores can assist you.

If you know what you need, and the stores near your house cannot help you, go ahead and check online. Search for the products you want. If you can’t find it online, it doesn’t exist.

If you are having trouble finding it online, check out some suppliers by calling up the stores you find during your online searches. They will be able to assist you.

By doing this, you’ll definitely get the barn door hardware you need!