I’m not big on motivational books, but this quote from Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote "The Power Of Positive Thinking," has stuck with me over the past few weeks while I’ve been waiting to schedule someone to fix my fridge, house alarm and dishwasher: "Find a need and fill it."
A real-life example of this maxim is the dentist I found when I first moved to Vancouver in 1985. I couldn’t afford to take time off during the day for dental appointments. So he and his partner cornered the market for young lawyers, accountants and other business people who also had difficulty with daytime appointments. They scheduled most of their appointments either early in the morning or at night after 6 p.m.
Twenty-seven years, and many thousands of dollars of dental work later, I’m still with them. I needed someone who did after-hours appointments. They filled that need.
Over the past few years, I’ve needed various appliances installed or repaired in my house; fridges, stoves, TVs, alarm systems and other appliances. I’ve had the same experience with telephone and cable companies where someone has to come to the house to install or service a modem, but someone else (me) has to be home to let them in to do the work.
Like the millions of other consumers who have day jobs, and can’t be home when it’s convenient for the repair or installation company, I’m told that the 'appointment' will be on such and such a day. I’m not given a precise time. Instead, someone has to be home between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. or between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. That’s all they can promise.
As I write this, I’m waiting for a company to replace the ice-maker in the fridge. I don’t even know if it’s a morning or afternoon appointment. Someone will phone me after 8.30 a.m. to tell me if I have to stay around all morning or if I have to come back from work in the afternoon. If you’re lucky enough to get a morning appointment, there’s no guarantee that the appointment won’t start at 11:58 AM. and be complete by 2 PM. Although some companies will try and schedule the first appointment at something like 8:30 a.m., getting me out the door by 9:30 a.m. if I’m lucky, nobody that I’m aware of will schedule appointments before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
Suggest early morning or evening appointment, when you’re actually home, and you’ll be met with incredulity. It’s reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch where there is no cheese in the cheese shop yet the sales clerk is insistent on telling the customer it’s the 'finest cheese shop in the district.' Plead on your hands and knees for an evening appointment, and it’s like returning a dead parrot. You’ll get nothing but excuses.
Because my wife or I have to stick around and wait for the repair person, we are not at our offices earning money. And of course, if the repair person is delayed, our working day is effectively shot. I wonder if someone has done a study of the loss to the Canadian economy by people waiting around for the appliance repairman to show up? Better yet, check Google for all of the entries on ‘Waiting for the Repairman’ and you’ll get a sense of how endemic this problem is.
I think it’s time things changed in the appliance repair and installation business. It’s not the 1950s or the 1960s anymore, where ‘mom’ is at home doing the dishes or cooking dinner and there’s always someone available to deal with the repairman’s schedule while ‘dad’ is at work. Most couples work.
I say Start the Revolution Now! Don’t use repair installation companies who aren’t prepared to make early-morning or evening appointments, and don’t buy from an appliance company which isn’t prepared to adjust to your schedule, as opposed to you adjusting to theirs. There are lots of companies trying to sell you ovens, fridges and dishwashers. If someone won’t deliver and install your appliance at 7 p.m. (a need) find another company which does (need filled) and buy from them instead.
Likewise, if someone isn’t prepared to repair your dishwasher at 7:30 a.m. to suit your schedule, try to find someone who does.
There’s a big opportunity for an appliance repair or installation service to provide early-morning or after dinner appointments (like my dentist did), and crush the 9-to-5 competition that only delivers, installs or repairs during traditional bankers hours. Perhaps this business model could be branded, franchised and expanded nationally.
Charge a premium for it, because it’s worth something to the consumer to have the installation or repair done in the early morning or after dinner so that their work day is not disrupted. Ask yourself this: is it worth your time sticking around house for 3 hours waiting for someone to replace a battery in your alarm system or fix your fridge, or, would you rather pay someone $50 extra to come after dinner so that you don’t lose a morning or an afternoon at work?
Frankly, someone has to do to the appliance repair and installation industry what Apple did to the music industry. And any company that’s prepared to do that will have my business, and I expect, the business of lots of others who are fed up with waiting for the repairman.
Tony Wilson is a franchising, licensing and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver, he is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and he is the author of two books: Manage Your Online Reputation, and Buying a Franchise in Canada. His opinions do not reflect those of the Law Society of British Columbia, SFU or any other organization.