Thursday, February 25, 2010

Applause for Radio Shack

It's rare that a company gets highlighted here for something they do right.  There are so many products and services out there that really are fantastic, directly addressing the customers' needs and it's taken for granted.

I'd like to share with you one such discovery that got my attention.  Two-three months ago I went to Radio Shack needing a new battery for my GPS, hoping that even if they didn't have the battery, they would have the tools to help me get inside.  As usual, I found myself surrounded by electronic devices that few people would have any need for.  Yes, they have surge protectors and multimeters, but a lot of what they carried has limited appeal.  You can order satellite TV through them, and they have a small selection of wireless and cellular phones, but I didn't know what half that stuff was supposed to be.  As I walked back into the Radio Shack with the toolset I'd just bought to return it (the tools had only gotten me partway into the GPS's innards) I wondered just how long Radio Shack would be able to survive in the silicon valley given the multitude of alternatives with greater selection.  "Oh well," I thought, "not every major metropolitan area has a Fry's, and they can continue to be the hit-or-miss 7-Eleven equivalent of the electronics world."

Between that time and last week it seems Radio Shack stores all over this area underwent major changes.  Cell phones and their accessories are now a major part of what the store does.  The DC adapters I was after not only wasn't behind the counter requiring an associate to help, they were on full display.  Where there once was a small selection of cell phones and wireless phones now was a wide selection of GPS devices along with some of their accessories.  What about radio parts?  That's where the name "Radio Shack" came from, is it not?  Yes, they have those, in the back of the store in tidy organized drawers.  The service was helpful in determining that my DC adapter actually wasn't the cause of problems (the device itself has a loose connection), though I found myself helping other customers with the GPS wall in explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each brand.  Still, for a quick service station they were fairly knowledgable.

Three days later I needed an unusual battery for a remote control and visited another Radio Shack.  Same experience.

As I left the store, I realized that I had just witnessed what was probably at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in customer research about what customers buy and what is really needed in an electronics convenience store, and millions of dollars in remodeling and inventory changeout.

Radio Shack:  Well done.

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