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Sales v Workshop: who’s in charge here?


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Hi All!

 I’m at a largish shop, lots of customers coming through, lots of sales. What I have been running into is sales staff giving away workshop services as perks to clients. This in and of itself is not a problem, the luthiers get paid regardless, the problem is that front staff are:

1 desciding what the customer needs without asking the workshop.

2. Selling customers repair jobs based on the sales persons opinion, or what the customers thinks they need. Workshop staff is then expected to conform to what the sales staff promised the customer. 

I understand that sales is the department that is most “money adjacent” and therefore has their needs prioritized. I also understand that pleasing a customer, even if their request is a little bonkers,  is of paramount importance. But isn’t this a little like a car salesperson talking about engine repair?

“No problem! We can totally swap your Prius’ engine with a Ferrari!”

”What’s that? You have a flat tire? Well I’m gonna have the boys replace the axels, wheels, tires, and wiper blades. That will definitely fix it!”

My actual questions would be: What has been people’s experience concerning who has the last word in situations like this? Has anyone had to deal with a similar situation with sales staff diagnosing instruments? Is this power structure common? Verboten? How could one convince the higher ups to put a stop to this? 

Needless to say I think anyone who doesn’t have a LOT of the right kind of training should ever try to determine what repairs would be appropriate. And “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is at play here. 

Thanks in advance.


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The problems you mention are real and occur in many places. Two of the shops where I’ve worked had to deal with this issue, and I think both sorted it out fairly well.

Ultimately, it all depends on the owner of the business, as Jerry pointed out above. Only the administration can make judgements about how to handle situations where opinions may be at odds and define the hierarchy of the business.

It is a problem if the luthiers are unable to make determinations about the work to be done and are expected to follow estimates put together by other staff.  Luthiers need to be able to contact customers and inform them of any additional requirements for the good of the instrument.

In the first shop where I worked, the problem came to a head because other staff were promising turnaround times and making price quotes that were inaccurate or not comprehensive, and customers began complaining about having to wait longer than expected and having the cost go up drastically in some cases. A couple of the luthiers spoke to the administrative staff, and there was a bit of deliberation. In the end a new policy was implemented, which stipulated that ONLY luthiers were allowed to quote prices and do estimates. The rules were clear and it worked well because there were enough of us luthiers on staff that at least one was always readily available.

In the other case, it was slightly different because I was the only luthier and I wasn’t in the shop every day. After I spoke to the owner about the issues I saw, he ended up creating a policy where other staff could sign instruments in, but they were required to explain to customers that the luthier would look over them and contact them with an estimate. This also eliminated the problem. 

If you’re experiencing these problems, talk to the owner, but do so professionally and respectfully. Make sure you can provide examples to explain it and show that it’s not merely your opinion. Focus more on the issue itself than on the people who contribute to it—don’t make it an accusation or a he said/she said scenario. 

As to the question of sales staff giving away work, this also happens a lot, and it can be a little frustrating because it makes one feel as if the work is being cheapened. However, remember that good service is what distinguishes good shops, and sales staff choose to offer some perks to show good will. It might sound silly, but a lot of sales can hinge on small gestures. There should be realistic limits on the amount of work that can be thrown in, but this (again) must be decided by the owner. It’s a delicate balance; if you give everything you do away, nothing you do has (monetary) value, but if you’re parsimonious, you’ll drive customers away. 

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If anyone wonders why some of us go to the trouble to learn and practice the appropriate techniques as well as equip ourselves with the adequate tools to work on our own gear, you may find some excellent reasons in the posts above.  BTW, this sort of "cluster something-or-other" isn't just peculiar to violin maintenance, either. :ph34r::lol:

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12 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

To answer your question, the owner is in charge.  Sounds like a question for her/him.

What he said... and we've probably all had differences in philosophy, procedure, policy or culture in various shops in which we've worked. Talking to the person ultimately responsible for the reputation, policies and payroll of the shop has the best chance addressing issues, change, understanding and/or compromise.  Ultimately, you have the choice of continuing to work there, or looking for another employer.

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The shop I used to go to before I moved was adamant about the luthier(s) contacting me when my instrument was looked at, and even when I would ask,” is there a general price I can expect?”- they would never give me answer until it was in the hands of the luthier.  I now use a private luthier and have not run into the same issues one can expect from a large shop, even though my old shop handled these issues appropriately. 

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