Best of Both Worlds: How Crescent Springs Hardware Combines Old and New Approaches to Win Over Customers
These days, great customer service seems like a thing of the past – but Crescent Springs Hardware in Kentucky has it, and that is unique. Add to that quick turnarounds on work orders due to streamlined operations, and customers get a positive experience overall. With experience and technology as the backbone, this family-owned business has gained an incredibly loyal following in its community over the 45 years of its existence.
We’ve recently had a chance to interview Justin Ishmael, the Parts Counter Salesperson at the outdoor power equipment department of Crescent Springs Hardware, who explained to us how the business was able to strike the right balance between the old and the new.
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Crescent Springs Hardware and how you got involved?
Justin: “The current owners took over in July of 1972, and it’s been the same family ever since. Originally, it was a husband and wife that owned it, but now it is the mother and four of her children.
I work at the parts counter for the lawn, garden and power equipment department, and I have been here for a couple of years.”
What would you say separates your business from other similar businesses in your area?
Justin: “Our competitors range from local independents to big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. The biggest thing that differentiates us is our extensive training and the one-to-one attention we give each customer.
You won’t find many associates at Home Depot who are as well-trained as any person here. We like to hire in the winter and train aggressively for the coming spring because once it arrives, it is incredibly busy. That way, no matter how big or small a customer’s issue may be – whether it involves a $2 part or a $2,000 piece of machinery – we’ll always put the same amount of effort into helping them.
The Home Depot is about 750 feet away from us. It was built right across the street about 12 years ago. There was some fear at first, but that subsided over time because the big-box stores are so different. Now Home Depot and Lowe’s both send over some of their floor models to us for assembly – they have become our customers.”
Do you compete with online retailers like Amazon?
Justin: “Often, parts sold on Amazon are not from the original equipment manufacturer, so instead, people end up with lower-quality knockoffs. Several customers have told us that they’ve tried the online route and received the wrong part – causing them even more issues. We are the ones they approach to rectify the problem quickly and easily.”
What do you think makes your power equipment department special?
Justin: “Unlike other retailers, a large part of our salespeople are also mechanics – for instance, our head mechanic is also our head of sales. Not only are we able to sell the equipment, but nearly any salesperson can answer technical questions without bringing in another party.
If a customer brings in a chainsaw that needs some minor work, for example, we can do the repair directly at the counter and send them on their way. This is much more convenient than having to take in a piece of equipment and keep it from the customer for several days while it’s being repaired by a mechanic.”
Why did you implement Ideal and what did you have previously?
Justin: “After discussing it with everyone, including those who have worked here for more than 40 years, I learned that the only software most of them can remember is Ideal. So, before that, we had manual tracking using a spreadsheet system.”
What are some of the must-haves when it comes to a system like Ideal?
Justin: “Any system has to be easy to navigate since we have staff of all ages – from 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds. With that in mind, when we assess technology, we look at how intuitive it is and how easy it is for them to learn.
We also want software to be easy to customize so we can make alterations. Fortunately, Ideal is flexible in that way – you can search by name with no issues and make any changes that you need.”
What would you say is the greatest strength of Ideal overall?
Justin: “The greatest strength is Ideal’s ability to store service history – primarily the way it retains past work orders and customer repair histories. This feature helps us out a lot, especially on the rare occasion when a customer has an issue.
Detailed record-keeping is key here. We have immaculate service records, and that’s thanks to Ideal. Keeping good records is easy because we have every part listed within the system. And everything is always up to date.”
What would you say is the functionality that helps you the most with your job?
Justin: “The work order entry keeps us organized. We make a work order, print it out and staple it to a double-sided piece of paper. The mechanic can list any parts they used on it – plus there’s a section at the bottom of each work order for making labor notes. The parts and price lookup is also very convenient.”
How much has Ideal contributed to the overall success of your business?
Justin: “Ideal is a big part of our success because it gives us the ability to bill people for parts and service. Given how streamlined it makes our work order process, it saves a lot of manhours – alternatively we would have to calculate parts totals, tax totals, labor totals and grand totals by hand, which is very time-consuming.
The system keeps us ahead of the game when it comes to the financial side of things. We can help the company business-wise in other ways, while Ideal runs in the background and keeps us organized.”
How has Ideal changed your professional life?
Justin: “Working with Ideal has thrust me into a technology role. I tinker with it and it motivates me to learn new skills – some of which I didn’t expect, given the environment. It’s given me the push I needed to build my professional skillset.”