There’s a lot to be said about the impact the last-mile experience can have on a customer’s perception of a business. Of course, you as a retailer don’t even get to that last mile without an expertly executed in-store experience. But future, repeat and even referral business can be made or broken depending on how the delivery and installation process unfolds. And let’s not forget about the care and attention your business gives to the service side of things, should that customer come back to you with a need.
When it comes to the team at Pocatello Electric in Pocatello, Idaho, exceptional customer service is simply second nature. And when you ask owner Suzie Vigliaturo, it’s that attention to detail that’s allowed the business to thrive for over 120 years.
“I think we do a super job taking care of our customers,” she says. “We always go the extra mile. We make phone call after phone call to get product taken care of that maybe broke down and they are waiting for parts or just getting it replaced — doing whatever it takes to keep the customer satisfied and in business with their appliances. I think that’s our probably strongest point.”
And you don’t need to take Suzie’s word for it. Pocatello Electric, which has been voted the Best Appliance Store 12 years running in the Idaho State Journal’s Readers’ Choice Awards, has also been voted Best Customer Service for the past three years. A lot of the methods and tactics that Suzie describes are things that will make any Independent retail owner nod their head and say, “Well, yeah, that makes perfect sense.” But it’s that extra attention to detail that the Pocatello Electric team displays that has paid off for the business. Things like being on time with their delivery schedule, taking care to safely and properly deliver and install product, instilling a customer-first mentality in their team and treating every service event as a top priority.
“If you go buy something from a Big Box store and you have a problem with it, they just tell you to call the manufacturer, call Whirlpool, call Frigidaire, call LG,” Suzie says. “They’re not going to pick up the phone and make that call for you. They’re not going to be on the phone for hours. They’re not going to have a rep that they can call on and say, ‘Hey, you got to help us out with this.’ You just have to have that connection, and you have to be willing to spend a lot of time advocating for those customers and trying to get them taken care of.”
And ensuring that they are taken care of, she says, means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, realizing that they purchased this expensive piece of equipment for their home that’s now not functioning properly, and they’re not happy. So, you do everything you can as a business owner to communicate with that customer and work to improve their mood — even if it means offering loaner equipment until that one part comes in.
“You can’t let the customer go months and months and months without a refrigerator because that’s how long it takes to get a compressor. That’s just not going to cut it,” Suzie says. “Keeping everyone on the same page — from the customer to the vendor to our rep — it takes expert communication. And I truly believe that’s what separates us from the Big Box stores. Is it stressful? It absolutely can be. But we’re willing to go to bat for our customers, and the loyalty they’ve shown us tells me that what we’re doing is working.”
The Pocatello Electric team isn’t resting on their laurels, however. Suzie recognizes that there’s always room to improve the experience, especially when it comes to the last-mile execution.
“We’re continuing to refine our delivery program to streamline the delivery schedule even more than we already have,” she says. “The other thing that I think we need to do is utilize more of the tools that Nationwide provides and has to offer, things like the point-of-sale tools and other things that can help us communicate even better with our customers and streamline some of the stuff that we have to do in our everyday business. We need to just keep moving forward.”
A Steep History
At over 120 years old, Pocatello Electric has a ton of history to dig through and learn from. The business began as a radio, lighting fixture and appliance store that also happened to offer free air and water at the curb — air for the car tires and water for the horses that were pulling carriages. The business passed through two owners before it was acquired by Al Vigliaturo, a Navy veteran, in 1973. Al, hoping to keep the business family-owned, would eventually sell Pocatello Electric to his son Mike and his wife (Suzie) in 1989.
Mike passed away in 2021, but Suzie continues to carry the torch for Pocatello Electric today. And doing business in the Southeast Idaho community, she says, has been a rewarding experience.
“Pocatello Electric is such an icon in our community, it’s just basically part of what Pocatello stands for,” Suzie explains. “The people in Pocatello are friendly. They’re always willing to help each other in times of need. And to me, it’s extremely important that we keep the legacy of Pocatello Electric carrying on for not only the Vigliaturo family, but all of Pocatello, Idaho.”
In fact, the business is so much a part of the fabric of the Pocatello community that the local historical society added the business to the historical registry. And, despite the challenges that may present in doing any work to the building’s façade, the designation represents everything that Suzie and the previous owners have done to establish the business as an integral part of the community.
“That mark really just represents the fact that when people hear the name ‘Pocatello Electric,’ they know who we are and where we’re at,” says Suzie. “It speaks volumes about the impact the past owners had in building this business. And it means a great deal to us today to be able to continue flying that flag and supporting this community.”
A long history alone doesn’t carry a business forward, though. And being able to call itself the oldest appliance store in the country is a mark that represents not only their past successes, but also their ability to adapt and evolve to meet the changing nature of the retail business and the changing needs of their customers.
“When Mike and I first bought the business, we had to go through a lot of different changes,” says Suzie. “We brought on new lines, we remodeled the store, we cut overhead to make our profit margins better and we updated signage and basically, we just had to catch up with the times.”
Among the biggest changes that Suzie notes the company made: joining Nationwide Marketing Group.
“That’s the one thing that’s had the biggest impact on our business and has helped us immensely,” she says. “Not only with the buying power, but just everything else that we’re able to get out of being a Member, the things you might not think about right away: the Nationwide Learning Academy sessions we’ve attended, the connections we’ve made at PrimeTime, not just with other retailers around the country but with the vendor partners and developing those relationships. The list goes on.”
In addition, Suzie credits Pocatello Electric’s growth and sustained success to their ability to adopt and grow a presence online.
“In 1989, you didn’t buy your appliances on a website,” she says. “Having a website, having our social media presence and keeping the community involved with what we’re doing — those things have helped us remain relevant and connected to the community here in Pocatello. You have to be out there in the community. You have to be active. We used to do a lot of newspaper advertising, but everything we do now mostly is on social media, billboards. We’re trying to stay up with the times and evolve our business alongside what our customers expect of us. We have to have an open mind and be willing to give anything a try.”