One of the things I have found in this industry is that our customers don’t consider locksmithing as a professional industry; they undervalue the services we provide. As I have written in previous posts, this comes from the idea that being a locksmith is just a hobby and therefore not worth paying for. Which leads a lot of consumers to have the attitude of : “Why don’t you just come out and adjust my lock for free?”
Well, I can never stress this enough. Any locksmith worth his salt has had training. Whether they were apprenticed as they were coming up through the years or they have just had good, old fashioned accredited schooling so that they can learn how to be a locksmith. Even with mail in courses available (which I almost believe have help to under-rate a locksmiths actual value) after someone has learned the “basics” putting that knowledge into actual every day application is not as easy as people seem to believe it is.
Locksmiths are not handymen. They don’t come to your door to “fix” your locks and then tighten up the leaky faucet and pound in the nail that is slightly sticking out. We don’t hang doors. While in smaller towns you may have this type handyman who does it “all” – as someone who is not a trained individual things can sometimes go very wrong. (We have a list of professional individuals who can meet the needs of our customers when we can’t; handymen, contractors, etc. Which we give out to our customers when they need someone to do something we don’t.)
While the majority of our customers who come in to our shop already know the value of coming to a locksmith in the first place, we find that quite a few come in to “purchase” replacement parts of screws that they dropped while installing a lock. [We don’t sell screws, that is the hardware store.] We use the screws that come with the locks and don’t generally have spares.
The other thing we find is that people who come to purchase a key from a locksmith often balk at the price, since our keys cost more than the 99¢ hardware store keys. What one has to realize is that even though our keys may seem to cost more, our customers don’t have to spend extra time or gas coming back and forth three or four times to get a key made right. Why? We invest in our equipment and in doing so we pay more for it than a hardware store. We calibrate our machines every other week, where hardware stores may have to wait 6-9 months for someone to come in and calibrate their machines. We pay for every key that we mis-cut, where a lot of hardware stores have what are known as ‘throw away keys’; they invest in a system that allows them to mis-cut keys and then every key that they cut incorrectly is replaced for little to no cost.
The biggest ‘obstacle’ I think we face in our industry is that as a locksmith is a professional, we charge professional labor rates. No matter how much a locksmith charges for labor, in the eyes of the consumer it is often “too much”. We charge a service call and labor when we are installing hardware, working on a vehicle locks (where we have to pull the lock and put it back in), etc. We charge actual time; unlike a lot of companies do, not only in our industry but also in other industries as well. However, due to the way that customers ‘idea’ of what a locksmith ‘is’ in their minds, our charges are often met as being outrageous or something to be bartered about. However, if these same people called a plumber (who charges $150/hr. [a lot more than we do]) they wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the cost. Or if they took it to the dealer, who would do the same thing as we do – as an example; programming a key – they would readily hand over the $200 for which the same service if they had come to us may have only cost $85.
In an effort to help save our customers money, we always try to give them options. We let them know that they can save money by bringing in their locks to us to be re-keyed. Or having their vehicles towed in so we can work on their locks. This simply saves the service call. It also allows the customer to bring in items that they can either drop off and we will call them as soon as they are ready; or we can take care of more quickly since we don’t have to work around other service calls.
It is due to the customers perception of what a locksmith is that we have become under-valued. I believe that the only way to change the perception is through educating the customer so that they can understand the value of a locksmith’s work. Where we may have a labor rate of $90/hr to come out and remove and replace locks, since we charge actual time; it may only be $15 to do a particular job. Often times we are called to repair what a handyman has done. Or instead of going to a dealer where they charged based on what the book says how long the labor should take (whether it actually takes that long or not) we do a professional job at an honest price.
Most professional locksmiths, who are in this industry for long time or plan to be in their industry for any length of time will be honest, show integrity and charge accordingly. Remember; we don’t want you to get a bad taste in your mouth by going to a fly-by-night locksmith. So check out your local locksmith(s) and plan ahead on who to use in the future when possible.
© 2010, Shauna. All rights reserved.