Behind a small storefront in Audubon Court, Rodney Hill is hard at work keeping true customer service alive at in Bayside.
The mailing and shipping business, located at 333 W. Brown Deer Rd., had been in the Bayside community for more than a decade when Hill decided to purchase it from its previous owner in 2009.
“I wanted the community feel that this area has. This is a community business. It absolutely is,” Hill said.
Pack ‘N Ship offers a variety of courier services through several companies including UPS, FedEx, Spee-Dee and the U.S. Postal Service. A freight service is also provided for larger shipping orders. Hill can make custom sized boxes for any sized item that needs to be shipped. The business offers gift wrapping, eBay and color copying services. Gift cards, mail boxes and other novelty items are also for sale.
A lot of history behind a little store
Hill met the previous owner of Pack ‘N Ship when he worked as a delivery man for UPS in 2004. As the two spoke more of the packaging and shipping business, Hill realized he could start his own company.
Later that year, Hill took a few courses, later opening a mailing and shipping store in Brookfield. In 2006, Hill opened a similar business in Cedarburg, running both locations for about six months, until he transitioned completely to the Cedarburg location.
In 2009, the previous owner of Pack ‘N Ship approached Hill with the opportunity to buy the Bayside business. At first, he was hesitant to purchase the store that was struggling during the recession.
“I was reluctant on several fronts, but I was encouraged also,” Hill said. “I knew the demographics here were definitely more conducive to this type of business than what I was doing.”
Hill purchased Pack ‘N Ship in 2009 and ran both the Cedarburg store and the Bayside location simultaneously.
“That was a little difficult because you know I had to have somebody there full-time, and I had to have somebody here,” he said.
Big shoes to fill
In the spring of 2010, Hill shut down the business in Cedarburg in order to focus solely on the Bayside location. However, the new business in Bayside didn't come without hurdles.
“Re-establishing myself in the place of the guy that had been here for 12 to 14 years, that’s a challenge within itself,” he said.
It took time for him to establish credibility with the regular customers who were used to the previous owner, but over time they grew comfortable with Hill. He said at first, it was unclear to the community what hours and days the store would be open, however he made sure to communicate with the public, not only by word of mouth, but with tools in front of his store as well.
“I’ve got two dry-erase boards (outside of the business) that I use to communicate to people,” Hill said. “I’m always posting something in the window if I’m offering a new service, I’m offering paper shredding, I’m offering eBay services, whatever.”
However, Hill knew he’d need to take his customer service to a higher level in order to grow his mailing and shipping business. He started by personally calling or emailing each customer that sent a package to let them know when it arrived at its destination.
And that communication and personal service paid off.
“You begin to bond with these people," he said. "They begin to know you, and you begin to know them. They begin to know your family. You begin to know their families. I was sort of familiar with what I was getting into and as a matter of fact, I desired it. I wanted it.”
Hill also offers to pick up, or drop off, any package to customers in the area for free if they do not mind him swinging by their house on his way to or from work.
“It’s good for my business. It’s good for that person and me to establish a bond, too," he said. "I want these people to know me and to trust me and they do, with their valuables. So they refer me to their friends and neighbors and relatives.”
Success despite the recession
For the most part, the business is run by Hill alone. One of his five children will jump in when he needs a break and give him a few days off here and there. However, not being able to hold on to a long term part-time employee is one problem Hill has noticed during the recession because many people are focused on finding full-time work.
Hill says business has improved in the past two years for the mailing and shipping company. Ask Hill and he’ll say personalized care adds loyalty, which is the key to success.
“People in this area appreciate good service and that personal attention; if you can give it to them, they’ll respond to that,” he said.
While he has noticed that customers are not necessarily spending more, that doesn’t worry him. Hill tries to stay positive regardless of the economic situations he may face and says it's all about keeping focus.
“You’ve got to like what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. Try not to take nothing personal and don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do.”