Customers can be a fickle bunch, says Timaru-based Steve Weaver, director of the Computer Service Centre.
He says he used to get a quarter of his business from the small town of Temuka, just up the road, so he opened a shop there.
But over the winter the outlet was closed, with Weaver noticing a lack of support by customers.
Yet, in a surprising turn, Temuka now generates 40 percent of his trade. “They were already coming here [to Timaru]” Weaver explains. “They come here for the shopping, they work in town and I think they think they get a better deal in town even though pricing is the same.”
Customer demand also led to a recent change of name last October. It had traded as Weaver Electronics since opening in 2002, but Weaver says the new name is a better reflection of its business.
“We put Computer Service Centre on the sign as the slogan and the name stuck. People were putting it on the cheques. It sums up more of what we do,” he says.
Computer Service Centre attracts customers from across South Canterbury from Temuka to Waimate and is a service centre with an emphasis on speed.
“We do sell equipment but we specialise in fast service. We turn over most jobs within 24 hours. We don’t muck around,” Weaver says. “We don’t waste time. We make a decision quickly as to whether to reload. Quite often we back up the data and just reload it. If there’s a virus on it, that’s what we generally do.”
Repairs generate 80 percent of the business’ income for Weaver and his two staff, with custom coming from householders and small businesses.
Weaver prefers household business as he has had trouble getting paid by businesses, because service charges can be one of the last things to be paid.
“With domestic, it’s paid before it leaves the store. We have had the odd bad-paying customer and they know if they don’t pay within a week, they won’t get away with it next time. Even the small businesses we do work with know they have to pay before they pick up.”
Word of mouth is important and Weaver says Computer Service Centre will often be recommended to customers by big box retailers.
After two very quiet months over winter, trade picked up as people realised they still needed to get their equipment repaired. Business levels are back to normal now, says Weaver.
Such business mainly centres around desktops and laptops, but not servers.
The Computer Service Centre faces competition from “a few guys”, but Weaver says there is enough work to go around. Fast service and protecting people’s data is his point of difference, he says.
The Computer Service Centre also offers Sky TV installation and used to sell satellite broadband too.
Weaver says supplying wireless or satellite broadband didn’t generate enough work and was troublesome, as many companies were involved in the sector and customers would want the work carried out very quickly.
Weaver says doing business in Timaru was a big change when he arrived from Auckland 35 years ago.
“The biggest challenge would be getting parts instantly, you have to hold so much more in stock,” he says.
Supplies are mostly from Dove Electronics in Christchurch, along with Morning Star in Auckland.
However, Weaver says he will never return to Auckland and notes people in South Canterbury are happy to pay for service, rather than shopping for the bottom dollar. Getting staff is also easy as “every man and his dog wants to work in computers, thinking there is a lot of money to be made”.
However, the increasing cost of petrol has meant scaling back on home calls, leaving the company van that was used for Sky installations more as a means of advertising.
But the shops suburban roadside location allows for easy parking, another point of difference with rivals.
And being at the north end of town, it is convenient for all those customers from Temuka!