The Price Matching Guarantee: Comparing Apples with Apples is the Key
Earnest companies in the replacement window and door industry will offer a “Price Matching Guarantee” as a way to help customers feel they’re getting a great deal and to help ward off the competition. Though it sounds like a simple and straight-forward offer, there’s an important question to ask: Are the apples in this comparison all real apples or are they oranges? Fundamentally, when exercising the price matching option, a close look reveals things can get complicated quickly.
When folks think about price matching, they immediately look at the bottom line figures. This is where the complexity of the option begins. When looking at the figures, there’s one question that must be asked: what exactly makes those figures what they are.... To help answer that, let’s look at the obvious starting point: Product.
When it comes to raw product – the windows and doors – all retailers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area buy wholesale from the same nationally-recognized manufacturers, such as Simonton, Milgard and Marvin. Some will pay more for the product, some less. It all depends on the yearly purchase volume.
Not that long ago, manufacturers did what they could to protect their independent retailers from getting eaten alive by the “big box” retailers like Lowes and Home Depot by selling them similar product, not like-to-like product. The independents were sold the best offerings within each product line. Big Box outlets couldn’t get access to all the bells and whistles.
Not any longer. Now, there’s product parity. (You should have seen the manufacturer’s rep squirm in his chair when he was force to reveal that policy change.) Independents do have the opportunity to add popular accessories and add-ons to a product, but they have to take the initiative. Some retailers will add-on features and put their own name on the product in a practice called “white labeling.” When product parity arrived, did it come with price parity? Unfortunately, no. Big Box stores get a price break due to their purchasing power and from special purchase agreements they make with the manufacturers. Independent retailers, such as Save Energy Co, can also get price breaks based on annual purchase volumes but they are not on par with the big guys.
This is a reality independent retailer have to chew on and swallow every day.
If an independent retailer is forced to price match on a product-to-product basis with Lowes or Depot, they flat-out can’t do so without reaching into their own pocket.
But in this, there is also opportunity. This situation puts independents in a position to offer customers things the Big Box stores can’t – installation. When looking at this aspect of the replacement window and door process, it must be understood this is where the idea of brand value comes into play.
But wait! Don’t Lowes and Home Depot offer installation? Let’s put a big asterisk by that and offer the following explanation. Big Boxers arrange with an independent contractor to installations for them. Contractors will bid for the opportunity – and we all know what that means, the lowest bidder is the winner. (How does this contractor get to the lowest price? By the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea...) This arrangement allows the Big Box stores to say, “You want installation? Go talk to that guy over there.” They then pretty much wash their hands of the situation. Have issues after the installation? Sure, you can call the store, but are you talking with the local store or with someone in a corporate office who has never seen you and has no idea what you’ve purchased. How well are they going to follow-up on your concern? Are they going to hunt down the contractor and explain the situation correctly? It’s a roll of the dice. There are a dozen ways installation issues can go sideways and a homeowner can quickly find themselves caught in an Olympic-level game of finger-pointing and responsibility avoidance.
Any independent replacement window retailer worth their license is going to take customer issues seriously. At Save Energy Co, the owner is aware of every issue, large and small. Many are handled quickly by the Production Manager. But when necessary, the owner steps in to ensure the situation is handled to the satisfaction of the customer.
There are two key reasons. One is it’s his company and he earnestly wants to give every customer value for their money. This means standing by the product and the installation work. Sometimes he’s an advocate of the client to the manufacturer. Other times, he diligently works to re-earn the client’s trust.
The second reason is reviews. Positive reviews are gold to Save Energy Co. They know people read them and the owner is crushed when a review rates the company less than five strs. Here’s a rea world example: The company received a one-star review. The owner knew it was coming. The job was difficult. There were crew mistakes. There were also issues with the product on the manufacturer’s side. Long story short, the owner worked 18 months to resolve the issues and make things right with the homeowner. The result? The homeowner documented the issue in a new review and gave the company five stars! Is that going to happen with a BIG box store? Are they going to go the extra mile? Five miles? Eighteen months-worth of extra miles?
Actions like this by an owner, dedication to customer service and satisfaction, these are qualities that add value to the relationship between replacement window company and homeowner. What price such value? How much is it worth to a homeowner to have the peace of mind that Save Energy Co is going to stick with them – as long and as far as it takes to make things right?
Another consideration when “price matching” is installation. Who’s doing the work? How experienced are they?
At Save Energy Co, the installers are employees, not pick-up crews, not contract installers. They work for the company and are genuinely invested in the image and reputation of the company. They care about doing the job right and take pride in knowing they collectively bring over 65 years of experience to every project.
The installation team recently completed a job in upscale Tiburon. The home actually looked better and cleaner after they finished the job. Why? Because they made aesthetic decisions when putting on the final trim work that simplified the look. The owner was ecstatic.
These are decisions made and actions taken by installation craftsmen who pride themselves in transforming homes.
How does that factor in “price matching’? What value does such dedication add to the transaction?
Having a full-time installation crew brings with it a high-level of commitment from the company. It has to take care of them in order to retain them. Save Energy Co pays well. All employees have a medical package, 401-K plan and two-weeks paid vacation. Save Energy Co takes care of its customers and its team members for this simple reason: Without either of them, there would be no company.
When it comes to customers “shopping around” for new replacement windows and doors, they need to ask, “Do I want the lowest price or do I want the best value? Price is just about dollars. Value is about dollars… and sense – process, experience, advocacy and peace of mind. Price matching is more than comparing bottom line dollars. It’s about comparing value – the “intangibles” of commitment and dedication has company has made and actively maintains to ensure the best overall customer experience possible – that only get recognition when pricing is effectively evaluated. Value is what turns apples into oranges.