Craig Peterson, general manager of Manchester Music Mill, knows what he’s talking about when it comes to rock and roll instruments, and he makes sure his staff does too. For Manchester, this is what sets them apart. “I hire people that are very knowledgeable about musical instruments, that are in it for the passion. I don’t want customers to feel pressured. I want them to feel like they’re buying the right thing for them, and I need knowledgeable salespeople to help them.” That focus along with their non-commission sales model gives Manchester Music Mill the expertise their customers are looking for, along with an increased level of trust.
Founded in 2005 by Joe and Dawn Lacerda, Manchester Music Mill started small, selling music equipment out of one of several practice rooms where bands would come to jam. “We started as musicians servicing musicians in band practice rooms,” Craig says. Since that start in 2005, Joe and Dawn have grown the Music Mill from a 2-person, single room operation to one of the top 200 music retailers in the U.S. and a top seller and partner on Reverb. Joe still owns and operates the business today, which employs over 30 people and owns two buildings, including a full-service tech shop. Manchester Music Mill does it all, from selling brass and woodwind instruments to guitars and amplifiers, as well as offering onsite tech services. They have a pro audio showroom and recording rooms, as well as lesson rooms for music education. “We have something for everybody,” says Craig. “We get customers that are in for the first time, wanting to start and learn how to play, all the way up to the collector that wants the super limited guitar.”
As a forward-thinking business, Joe and his team have made steps throughout their 16-year-history to stay current in customer service and communication. They started with a landline, and have added email, website, and social media through the years. Recently they also served customers through texting on their personal cell phones, which was convenient for customers but less than ideal for the staff.
When the pandemic hit, they got a dedicated cell phone just for texting their customers and advertised that line of communication. “Our customers want to talk by text—they want to message. They don’t want to pick up the phone and listen to a voicemail prompt to dial 2 to get the right person,” says Craig.
And it worked—sort of. “It became very disjointed because we had information coming from all these different sources. If we needed to reference something in a conversation… it was very difficult.” They got lots of texts from customers, but still missed messages occasionally, which led to the need for a new solution.
With Podium, Joe and Craig found the answer—now they can still offer texting as a communication channel with their customers, while keeping everything centralized and organized. “It’s more responsive; there’s always somebody responding to it, so their texts or their messages aren’t getting lost,” says Craig. “These tools have opened up an avenue where [customers] can talk easily with Manchester Music Mill, and talk in their voice, and can get a deal done on their cell phone. It’s definitely created a more positive customer experience.”
Since putting a Webchat program on their website, texting is one of their main revenue streams. They now average over 115 inbound Webchat leads monthly, and those customers can go from inquiry to full purchase and payment in one conversation.
Now that they have texting sorted, the process for their customers is smoother all around. Instead of driving long distances to pick up something they saw online only for it to be sold before they get there, customers can text Manchester Music Mill, place a hold on an item, pay for it via text if they’d like, and pick it up at their convenience. “It’s easy for the customers and it’s easy for us,” says Craig.
Fulfilling orders is easier now too because they can pass the conversation through to the next staff member with no friction for the customer. The salesperson can transfer the text conversation from the person inspecting the instrument to the person shipping the instrument, who can text them a tracking number, and it’s all in one message thread and from one phone number. Each employee can communicate with the customer as needed about each step in the process. “There is less running around to make sure that everything goes smoothly,” says Craig. “We can manage the whole workflow through multiple people super efficiently. I would absolutely encourage [music stores] to get on board with Podium. It’ll help them talk to their customers in a more efficient way, it will help increase their business, and it’ll help them be organized.”
Not only were they able to easily answer each message without things slipping through the cracks, but they were also able to solve other problems as well. Previously, they dealt with expensive credit card processing fees and an outdated checkout process. With Podium, they were able to completely replace their old point-of-sale solution and modernize. They now use handheld readers, mobile card readers, and text-to-pay in their store, at events, and at trade shows, so the customer can check out right where they’re at. Payments are processed faster than with their previous processing service, and at a lower rate too—by a conservative estimate Craig says they’ve saved over $10,000 in processing fees alone since they began using Podium Payments eight months ago. That’s a significant impact. For Craig, “[that’s] another part-time person that I can put on staff.”
For Manchester Music Mill’s customers, those convenient ways to talk and pay make it easy to do business with them, and that’s shown in the online reviews Music Mill receives. With texted review invites, they now receive double the online reviews each month and have seen their online ranking and average star rating increase. For Craig, that’s just a consequence of doing business right. “Ultimately, if your customers engage with you and you’re doing a good job and you’re helpful to them and you’re offering them the service that they want, the revenue follows. Podium makes all that stuff super easy.”
- Google star rating increased from 4.76 to 4.86
- Reviews per month increased from 4.6 to 8.3
- Averaging 115+ webchat leads per month
- $1.5M in payments collected in 8 months from in-store readers and text to pay
- $10,000+ saved in credit card processing fees in the first 8 months with Podium