What started as your typical mom and pop shop in San Antonio, TX, has evolved into a novelty in the industry. One of the area’s go-to places for outdoor power equipment, C&L Mower Service, is run by women. Elizabeth Rudd and stepdaughter Jay Laman stepped in to operate the business after the death of husband and father Bob Rudd who purchased the existing dealership in the early 1990s. Together, Rudd and Laman work to maintain Bob’s focus on what quality customer service should be.
Honest and hard-working, Rudd and Laman focus on taking care of their employees and working right alongside them to meet the needs of customers. A half-million-dollar operation, they are ready to move on to the next step. They’ve added another mower line and have plans to invest in their service department and facility.
It’s Not a Man’s World
To some entering C&L Mower Service, it may seem surprising to see a dealership that is run by two women. While it is a male-dominated industry, the women at C&L are certain that customer service is gender neutral.
“I really do not know that our shop being women-owned and women-run makes it more competitive, but it is definitely rare in this industry,” says Laman. “Good customer service is gender neutral. You either can provide it or you can’t—and your customers will tell you if you can’t.”
Rudd and Laman maintain that customer service should be the focus in order to be competitive. They make sure they account for the growing female customer base that is coming through their doors. A clean showroom and no-pressure sales tactic is what they use to put the female customers at ease.
“Outdoor power equipment is not just a man’s domain. The women using and purchasing equipment are growing in numbers,” explains Laman. “We provide an environment where they can grow their interest and confidence in their abilities while also providing a safety net for them when they need service.”
With a customer base that is 73% consumer, they educate customers on equipment while providing knowledgeable and friendly service. The careful layout of the dealership allows an easy flow-through for customers and employees alike. They use Ideal Computer Systems software to assist in inventory control, tracking of parts orders, and work orders. Maintaining a detailed customer history helps keep staff organized and customers confident in their services.
Educating Customers and Staff
Having a knowledgeable employee base is the first step in the direction of quality customer service. Product knowledge helps in finding the right equipment for the customers’ needs and gaining their confidence and trust in the dealership.
“When we outfit a customer with a piece of equipment, we want to make sure they are getting what they need and not just what is available,” says Laman. “We are not looking to be a one-time stop for anyone walking through the door, but rather an informative go-to place that they can rely on for an honest answer.”
Educating staff is done not only so they can meet the needs of customers, but also to show they are invested in their employees’ success and advancement. They put into employees exactly what they expect to get out in return.
“Our employees are like family and we don’t treat them any different than we would our own,” says Laman. “They want to learn and they want to pay that forward. The work that comes out of our shop is a direct reflection of everyone involved in keeping us a cut above the competition.”
They have worked hard to develop a knowledgeable and empowered employee base. Their office manager is Stihl-certified and all employees are encouraged to attend specialized training provided by the manufacturers of product lines they offer.
“We strive to maintain a high level of experience and education to ensure that we are bringing leading-edge service to our customers,” says Laman. “All of the manufacturers offer specialized training for their products that we make accessible to all of our employees. The experience from working with the equipment is irreplaceable.”
The Next Step
In getting to know their customer base, Rudd and Laman have assessed the area’s needs and decided to add a third mower line. They thought carefully about how adding the line would not only attract more customers with a wider product offering, but help their existing customer base.
“We strive to make the best decisions we can for our business and try to look at every aspect of how it might affect our business,” says Laman. “We continually try to see ourselves from the viewpoint of our customers so that we may change accordingly for the better.”
Adding Toro will make them the first dealer of the line in their area and give them the opportunity to extend specialized service and parts inventory to existing Toro owners.
“We are pleased to be a reliable source and a reputable service facility for Toro machines,” explains Laman. “There has been a lack of service facilities in our area for the Toro line which has left a large number of Toro customers without an option for maintenance of their machines. We will now be able to provide them with the complete service package we offer our other customers with manufacturer replacement parts availability and factory-authorized, trained service technicians.”
With the addition of the line, it is anticipated there will be additional demand in the service department as well. To prepare themselves for an increase in workload, they are working with staff to find ways to improve efficiency. Investments will be made in the service department and overall facility.
“We are working on expanding our service department to accommodate for additional techs, expanding our warehouse and outdoor storage facilities, re-organizing our parts department for quicker parts access, and cleaning everything we can reach,” shares Laman. “Everyone is very helpful in suggesting different ways we can improve our efficiency to make everyone’s job a little easier.”
Rudd and Laman’s achievements and plans for the future have been made possible through maintaining Bob’s vision for what superb customer service really is.
“Customer service was always at the top of my dad’s list, followed closely by the best possible quality and value for the dollar,” says Laman. “We have always shared that perspective. I continue to manage the ins and outs of daily business with the thought that this is a reflection on me, and I strive to make everything the best I can. By the same token, I am continually looking for different viewpoints that I may have missed that can better everyone’s experience here at C&L Mower.”