Business lessons from Dunder Mifflin’s Robert California

Ryan Cash quoted a great statement from Robert California, CEO of Dunder Mifflin‘s parent company Sabre, as depicted on NBC’s The Office. California was talking with paper sales representative Phyllis Lapin-Vance:

“Let me tell you how I buy something these days.

I know what I want, I go on the Internet and I get the best price.

Or, I don’t know what I want, and I go to a small store that can help me.

The era of personal service is back. You are back.

You’ll find that customers will pay our higher prices and then they will thank us. And we will say to them, you are welcome.”

As Ryan points out, he’s absolutely right. That’s exactly how I buy things. If I want a book, I buy it online. I don’t consider driving to a bookstore for an instant. Why would I? I have no questions about buying books.

If need a kitchen sink, I’ll drive to the kitchen place in town and talk to the owner. I know nothing about sinks. While megastores are in trouble, there’s a real opportunity for small, specialized boutiques.

There’s still a problem, though, as Ryan points out. What’s to stop me from gathering information on sinks in person, decide on the one I want and then find the best price online? It’s the experience created by that shop owner. If he can wow me with his knowledge and service, you’re darn right I’ll buy a sink from him. And probably ever other appliance I ever need, too.