We understand that small businesses are facing an unprecedented time of disruption resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While sadly many businesses have no option other than to close their doors, here at the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) we are hearing about business owners who have been able to innovate and find a new direction. This series of posts is about sharing ideas from WA small businesses that have found a way of doing business differently.
When Gavin Barnes, owner of Tech Window, realised COVID-19 would lead to a substantial decline in visitors to his IT and telecommunications retail and repair shop in Busselton, he made an instant decision to take his service directly to regional customers.
As Gavin explains, “COVID-19 brought both fear as well as doom and gloom about an unknown future. Instead of accepting this as fate, we decided to give it our all and hope for the best.”
In the space of three days, the traditional brick and mortar business, which provides individuals and business clients with equipment repairs and support and system monitoring, had purchased a decommissioned ambulance as its service vehicle. The vehicle was rapidly branded with decals printed by a friend’s business and installed by Gavin, and was straight on the road offering a mobile repair service to customers throughout the South West. For efficiency, service focussed on different areas each day. By booking a home visit on the day allocated to their region via the business’ website or phone, customers would only be charged a low $20 call-out fee, making the visiting service affordable as well as convenient.
Letting customers know that they could still access Tech Window’s services safely and conveniently at the height of the pandemic was a key challenge. Gavin invested heavily in marketing to spread the word, including:
- updating the business website; adding a booking form for the onsite support service
- increasing newspaper and social media advertising, as well as organic social media marketing
- creating higher frequency direct email marketing campaigns to their database
- investing in a long term campaign with a local radio station
- seeking feedback from customers to learn how the business could better serve them.
An important part of the new offer’s success was being able to reassure customers that the mobile service was COVID safe. The visiting repair service was contactless, with devices collected from customers’ front doors and taken out to the van for servicing. Masks were used where appropriate, gloves worn when working on devices for an extended period, and items sanitised both before and after handling. Customers were also invited to notify Tech Window about any additional health concerns or risk factors they had, so they could plan further risk management actions.
With an increased reliance on electronic devices during self-isolation, Tech Window’s pivot to a mobile service has been a resounding success.
“Before the pandemic, I was the only full-time staff member in our business, with one part-time employee. I was able to increase the hours of my part-time staff member to full-time and am current in the process of welcoming two additional team members to meet increased demand,” says Gavin.
“In addition to allowing us to offer our service in a more convenient way and keep people connected during the pandemic, our new van has had the unexpected benefit of acting as a mobile billboard, with our increased travel boosting our brand visibility throughout the South West, previously we were only well-known in the Busselton area.”
The pandemic and the resulting changes to the business have not only received positive feedback and adoption by customers, they have led to a new direction for Tech Window, with the business now looking to expand its mobile service.
Thanks for sharing your way of doing business differently Tech Window!