Growth strategies from the guy who started in a dorm room and now has one of SA’s most recognisable smart device repair franchises - iFix.
- Company: iFix
- Founder: Alex Fourie
- Est: 2007
- Footprint: 14 stores nationwide
iFix was a business started in a dorm room in 2006 by Alex Fourie out of plain need to fix his broken iPod. It so happens he’d struck on a market that had yet to be tapped, and his theory was soon validated when customers beyond friends and family came knocking to have their smartphones, tablets and iPods repaired.
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Fast forward nine years and iFix is a hugely successful premium repair business enjoying explosive growth, and has 14 stores around the country. This didn’t just happen by luck, but some very smart brand building. Alex Fourie explains how he did it.
Q&A with Alex Fourie
How has the market and competition changed since starting out in 2007?
From the time we started, the market itself has grown hugely and naturally that brings competition. We’ve always positioned ourselves as a premium service with a focus on convenience, a great customer service and fast turnaround time as we understand the frustration of having a technology issue or not being connected.
I’ve read The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen, and we understand implicitly that you’ve got to constantly innovate because the minute you stop, the company dies. So as more and more competition has appeared and customers’ needs have evolved, we’ve focused on anticipating and meeting those needs.
What aspects of your business has changed to keep up with growth?
We’ve put in a huge amount of time and resources systematising and streamlining everything in the business for the best customer experience. We’ve become vertically integrated and created our own internal supply chain that is centralised and tracked.
Compared to 2010 when repairs could take up to 72 hours, 95% of our repairs are done the same day. We also provide spin off offerings that accompany our core ethos like out of warranty insurance – this is primarily because networks are focused on selling contracts, airtime and data, and manufacturers are focused on selling product, but there’s a gap in providing quality repair services that don’t cost a fortune.
We’ve heard you hire front of house staff from the hospitality industry because of their talents in keeping customers happy. What else goes into your training for a great brand experience?
We hire A+ players even though the systematising means we could technically hire B players and the business would still function, because part of maintaining the premium service and customer experience means having people who are self-motivated and always five steps ahead.
This goes for managers who are empowered to solve problems without having to ask permission first, having a system that notifies managers of potential issues before they happen – like a phone being at the store for more than 24 hours – and we “reverse train” our technicians.
We hire our technicians based on their skills, but very often they come from a network background where the philosophy is to save costs first, customer comes second. Here we enforce our culture of customer first through substantial on-the-job training.
How much of your business has come from word of mouth and what lessons have you learnt?
We average about 10 000 customers a month and easily 75% of that is from word of mouth.
Prior to launching iFix I was very involved in the music industry and marketing bands and their tours. I learnt that the music industry is very subjective and a lot of it has to do with marketing.
Related: The secret to ‘iSuccess’
You can have a great song from band A and band B, but one will be successful while the other not. Why is that? It’s the way you package it and present it. Your song is your product and that counts for only 50% of the whole experience. I use that same ethos for the service we offer.
The actual service itself only counts for 50%. We have a great website, amazing looking stores, brand ambassadors, and we focus a lot of our marketing on social media as branding creates confidence and trust when you’re dealing with people’s prizes possessions.
Disgruntled customers can be damaging to a brand. What’s your fix?
We have an issue ratio of less than 2% and complaints ratio of less than 0,5%. That’s extremely good for the service industry but on 10 000 customers per month that’s still 50 people who are unhappy.
We’ve got a built in customer metric that doesn’t waste people’s time with a 1 to 10 rating, but just three: Awesome, average, or terrible. Anything below awesome the manager is notified and 90% of the time the issue is resolved before the customer even leaves the store, or they immediately phone the customer. Because of our systems and tracking we’re often able to pre-empt issues before they arise or at least know the possible reasons for a customer being unhappy.
It’s taken substantial time, effort and diligence to build up a track record, but it’s paid off and the brand is now a trusted one fast, quality for out-of-warranty repairs that is allowing us to keep growing at the pace we are.