Recently I’ve heard quite a bit of discussion about the appliance repair industry becoming obsolete. I realize there are many opinions on the topic, and I have a few observations I’d like to share.
I often hear the television repair business used as an example. Televisions have become smaller and smaller over the years, and now they can literally be held in the palm of a hand. They’ve also become ever larger. Replacing a television is perhaps as basic a task as a homeowner can take on without assistance. So yes, we don’t see TV repair shops as much as before – or at all.
But I would suggest that electronics continue to have a life cycle that is different from the traditional home appliance. In addition, their role in the average consumer’s home isn’t the same.
For example, customer Smith has built a new home. She spent weeks choosing her appliance package and the finish of her refrigerator, right down to the handles that match all the other appliances in her kitchen. Her refrigerator has the bells and whistles she desires, and the double-wall oven is the centerpiece. We won’t even mention that her laundry room is customized and designed to meet her needs and style.
We can thank HGTV for creating this house-proud nation where things need to look as good as they work. But, nevertheless, she is proud of her home, and the repair industry is happy that she is.
Here’s why: Ms. Smith is less likely to toss the refrigerator that she’s spent so much time choosing. Likewise, should she decide to do so, her kitchen would no longer match. I realize that for some of us, this is a small thing, but for many of our customers, it’s very relevant. I’ve heard customers say, time and time again, that they would rather repair the failed unit than search for another.
This extends to Ms. Smith’s laundry. The matching set she loves has an issue with the dryer, and if she doesn’t repair it, she’ll have to replace both, since they’ll no longer match, and that’s important to many customers.
But the desire to keep things coordinated isn’t the only reason the repair industry should rejoice. Unlike most televisions – which are, by and large, a black rectangular screen that looks basically the same – major appliances don’t look the same. They have different features, colors, and styles – and the list could go on. If Ms. Smith’s television stops working, she can have a new one in its place within an hour. It’s even likely that she can move it in and install it herself. She has no need to contact anyone or set up a delivery, and she’s less concerned with it matching anything in her home since it’s a black rectangle and so is the one next to it.
However, if her wall oven stops working, she doesn’t have the same options. She can’t pop over to WalMart and grab a new one, load it in the car, swap out the old one, and plug it in for the win. It’s a very different thing.
In addition, customers build relationships with their appliances. Anyone who’s spent time in this industry has heard, “My old one…” followed by a long list of the differences between the one she knew and loved and the one you’re attempting to “fix.” We build relationships with these things, without even realizing it.
In addition, cost is a factor. Most refrigerators now aren’t your garden-variety model that Grandma used. They have features that aren’t related to keeping the food fresh, but that add cost to the purchase. These are large purchases and not something we buy on a whim.
In short, making a television or music device smaller is innovative and they are easily replaced. Making a refrigerator or a wall oven smaller is a problem. These are just some of the things that set us apart from other industries.