Resource Library: The Strategies To Improve Customer Service Library

Without customers, no business has a reason for existence. Customers are EVERYTHING and it is no great secret to suggest that the businesses who look after their customers extremely well have more of them and they are prepared to buy more and pay more.

The Business Secrets Of Australia’s Most Customer Focused Vet

What Are The Primary Frustrations Of Your Industry?

Do Something Different For The Customer

Customer Satisfaction v Customer Loyalty

Customer Satisfaction v Customer Loyalty

Where Customers Can Get Help

Show More Interest

What Does “Hmmm” Mean?

A Few Business Uses For SMS

The Business Secrets Of Australia’s Most Customer Focused Vet

Congratulations to long time subscriber and general all-round good guy, Diederik Gelderman of Greenhills Veterinary Hospital, because he has won the Australian Veterinary Association Excellence in Customer Service Award.

So, let me tell you about Dick (as we call him) because he epitomizes the dedication that is required to be successful in small/medium business.

For starters he’s passionate about his business and he loves his patients and staff. He is a huge investor in his own betterment and that of his staff. In fact, he spends close on $30,000 in improving his own knowledge each year. As Dick says “investing in yourself is one of the best investments you can make.”

Dick aspires to be a great leader of his staff (and he does this by coaching them rather than the traditional “tell and yell” method). He deliberately set out to construct a business that reflected his personality and his principles.

Be Different

His veterinary hospital is certainly different from any other veterinary clinic you’re likely to visit. It’s packed with interesting stuff for his two classes of clients (the two legged variety and the four legged variety). Inside he’s got a forty foot tree as well as aquariums, bird aviaries, a TV room and a dedicated kid’s play area.

Pause now and ask yourself these questions:

What can I do to be “stand-out” different?
What can I do to excite my customers?

Back to Dick. Concentrate On Your Important Clients

His clients love him...I know, because I surveyed a number of them as part of our coaching assignment and there is a real depth of loyalty that is rare today.

And note this well, he charges appreciably more than his competitors and he has by far and away the lion’s share of his marketplace. What does that tell you about price?

Dick has come to realize that you cannot please all potential clients and so he doesn’t try. He focuses intensely on his A Grade clients or Platinum members as he calls them.

Enthusiastic Staff

Plus, he is a great believer in training. Staff members are trained in groups and they have individual assignments as well. Dick is also a mentor to many of his younger staff.

Could these reasons explain why his staff turnover is well below the national average for vet practices?

Plus, they have to be just about the friendliest vet joint in Australia and it’s a pity some of our human hospitals couldn’t emulate them. When you ring them up or visit the hospital you’ll find them cheerful, happy and enthusiastic.

Did training assist to get them to this position? Of course.

Back to Dick. Time For Dick

And he’s organized. The day starts at 5.30am and the first few hours of the day are his to do the things he wants to do. This is important and frankly, we all need to build personal time into our normal day. Think about this as we progress through 2005!

Dick’s business is highly process-driven and all of the processes are written, as you would expect. Yes, it took some time to organize in the first place, but the benefits now are that Dick can go overseas for weeks at a time and know that the hospital will be operating (yeah, pun intended!) like clock work.

Attention To Detail

Now, how’s this for attention to detail. Dick even has a grieving room for people who bring their pets in for the final time (alas they are about to be mercifully put to sleep for eternity). Naturally people are upset at this traumatic time and so Dick has designed a separate room with its own exit so people can depart with their dignity intact. Little do they know that within a week, they will also receive a very powerful remembrance pack which includes amongst other things a lock of old Fido’s hair and a small tree which can be planted in memory. With this kind of attention to detail, how could you possibly go elsewhere when you get a new pet?

Market & Promote

But Dick doesn’t just sit back and wait for people to come through the front door. No, he’s a persistent marketer and he takes a high profile in his area via his “Dr Harry” Days (that’s Dr Harry of TV fame) when his clients and the area are invited to meet the famous celebrity. Naturally Dick gets media coverage for these events and he gets his suppliers to pay for part of the costs.

Now here’s the really interesting part. When Dick did his vet training, he spent ZERO time in learning how to run a successful veterinary practice. He’s self taught and more importantly he applies what he learns. I’m pleased to call him both a long time client and a friend.
Source: Positive Business Newsletter


What Are The Primary Frustrations Of Your Industry?

It’s 5:30 a.m. and all is quiet…except for my mind which is whirring with pent-up frustration surrounding a certain tradesperson who has let me down (again).

I got up early to send him a “skyrocket” of an e-mail! I also pounded his phone message bank as well. Not that it will change him at all, but I feel a little bit better.

As a small developer/renovator I can tell you it is absolutely frustrating dealing with tradespeople. They just don’t do what they say they will do and they rarely turn up on time. Not only that, they rarely bother to contact you to let you know that they are about to let you down…again!

Can you relate to my frustration?

Of course there are exceptions, and you dear reader are probably one of them.

If you are, you’ve identified the secret to success in your industry. That is, you’ve identified the primary frustrations in your industry and you’ve done something about them. Good on you, you deserve success.

Now, before I provoke a tradesperson led revolt, with me as the object of lynching, let me broaden the subject and say that every industry has primary frustrations, and surely, the secret to success is to identify these frustrations and make sure they are not occurring in your business.

But, we should go much further…we should actually make it a central theme of our marketing to ensure that, not only do we address the primary frustrations of the industry, we are different to the rest of the “look-alikes” in our industry.

And they all do look alike, don’t they? For instance, painting school must teach all aspiring house painters to only buy a white utility…no other colour! Electricians and plumbers are best served by a four wheel drive (Nissan preferably). Talk about a lack of entrepreneurial “do it differently” type spirit.

Take David Hall who owns and operates The Clean Plumber in Sydney. Did you note the name? Does it address one of the frustrations of his industry? Yep!

And David has strategies in place to ensure that one of the primary frustrations of his industry – untidiness – is taken care of in a very upfront way. For starters, leaving the worksite cleaner than they found it is just one of nine individual guarantees which he gives.

Now, at the end of the job when the tools have been put away and everything has been correctly re-arranged, the Clean Plumber will offer the client a choice of three separate disinfectant deodorants. As this is being offered, the client is asked to “sign-off” as to their satisfaction with the total clean up.

Now, doesn’t this beat the heck out of the usual plumbers finish?

And what’s another primary frustration of people who use plumbing services? Answer: The fact that they never turn up on time, right?

Well, The Clean Plumber gives you two further guarantees. Firstly, that they will visit you at a time that you want and secondly, that they’ll give you a $30 cash back coupon if they’re not on time.

I reckon David has pretty well nailed the primary frustrations for most trades businesses and if you’d like to see what they are and what he has done to address them…go and see his website

So, a key question: What are the primary frustrations of your industry?

If you cannot articulate them…try answering the following questions.

What three things would your customers like you to do for them that your competitors are not doing?
What would it mean to your business if you could do these three things better than anyone else in the industry?
What’s stopping you from doing these three things right now?
What additional resources will you need to be able to implement these three things?
Which of your competitors are making a pretty good effort at addressing these three issues and what can you learn for what they are doing?
When will you commence implementing theses changes and who will take charge of the project?

Source: Positive Business Newsletter


Do Something Different For The Customer

The centre for Small to Medium Sized Enterprises at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom has conducted extensive research into the success factors for small to medium enterprises (SME’s) and at the heart of success is: they do something different for the customer.

In conducting their research – which they have now turned into a brilliant book called surprise, surprise… Do Something Different – they also observed much about the character of the leaders of these successful businesses. For starters, they had experienced many failures before they attained their success, but the failures did not deter them.

On the other hand, the SME Centre at the University of Warwick also saw much evidence of people who tried to do something different – failed – and then went back to what they did previously.

In other words, they failed at trying to change and did so by making two negative conclusions as below:

1. This approach didn’t work, so I’d better try same thing again
2. This approach didn’t work, so I’d better give up

And the above is why most people never achieve their goals.

Those who ultimately experience success have the principle of “requisite variety” working for them. In simple terms this principle says that the person who has the greatest variety of means of reaching a goal is the person most likely to reach that goal.

When this is the case, their thinking becomes:

1. This approach didn’t work, but I still believe in my goal.
2. This approach didn’t work, so I’d better try something different.

Do you see the difference in thinking between the two mindsets?

Now, to do something different for your customer begin with getting detailed answers to these questions:

* What really annoys them?
* What would make their life easier?
* What really fires up their passion?

Whilst we’re talking about doing something different, let me challenge you on another front – and the early part of a calendar year is a great time to illustrate with examples.

Are there aspects of your product or service that may be out-date, are ripe for improvement or need a compete re-invention?

Be honest with this; ask your staff to give their opinions and also a number of your valued customers. Maybe suppliers or your industry association representative can offer you some insight as well.

Here’s an example: Weight watchers advertise hugely at this time of the year because they want to capture the people who are intent on shedding a few kilos.

Now, I’ll bet that 60% - 70% of their business comes from old customers returning for another bash. Okay, okay…I know this because I’m one of many who return year after year. But we only return because Weight Watchers re-invents itself every year – otherwise we wouldn’t return. They change the product offering, they add the glitz and the newness and we’re in for yet another merry-go-ride!

Could it be that your customers or prospects perceive your products/services as boring?

Yes 1 Maybe 1 No 1

Look at what McDonalds has done in recent years to re-invent itself so as to take advantage of a lean, diet conscious public. The Subway franchise group have almost pitched themselves as a healthy weight-loss centre. Now both these businesses didn’t arbitrarily decide to go healthy. No, they listened to what a substantial portion of their marketplace was saying and wanting.

Are you really listening to the needs and wants of your customer base? Yes 1No 1

Source: Positive Business Newsletter


Customer Satisfaction v Customer Loyalty

More that a handful of business people don’t know the difference between these two expressions so here are a few thoughts:

Customer Satisfaction:
* It’s hugely associated with the last transaction or experience
* It’s very quick to grow, but also quick to fall off
* Today’s customer expects much more, and is quicker to voice an opinion on satisfaction levels

Customer Loyalty
* Is more tied to the relationship
* Is not as freely given today
* Expects good service and value as a given
* Is appreciative of recognition and small “extras”
* Is not tolerant of huge differences between what they get as compared to what they could get at the competitors

Bottom line: Customer loyalty is the better prediction of the future of the business – but it cannot be taken for granted and like any relationship it needs to be nourished and stimulated.

Source: Positive Business Newsletter


Where Customers Can Get Help

When a customer rings up with an enquiry, they don’t want to hear, “Sorry, I can’t help you. That’s not my job.” Sometimes staff members say that simply because they have a bad attitude … but most times it’s simply because they don’t know where to refer the customer.

If this is sometimes a problem at your workplace, make sure you provide every worker with a list of those who can help customers and a description of their expertise. For example, Late Deliveries – Michael Ross, ext. 127

Now staff will be able to say, “I’m sorry I can’t help you personally, but I’ll put you through to Michael Ross who will be able to.”

- Adapted from Crescendo as reported in Positive Business Newsletter


Show More Interest

We can always learn from different fields, can’t we?

Research in the medical field has confirmed that when doctors sit down to talk to patients eye-to-eye, the patients report feeling as if the doctor has taken more time and interest in them.

Think about this when you are dealing with staff and customers.

Source: Manager’s Edge, USA as reported in Positive Business Newsletter


What Does “Hmmm” Mean?

Recently I had my regular dentistry check-up. Buzz…he’s an old school friend, hence the nickname…is a great guy and a brilliant dentist.

But what is it with the medical profession and the word “hmmm”? My chiropractor uses it too and usually before you hear your bones make a very weird sound.

When Buzz, my dentist, says “hmmm” it usually isn’t followed up with any further commentary. But, I know that “hmmm” isn’t good! So I sit there, unable to ask questions, fearing the….NEEDLE and the DRILL!

Not that I really want an in-depth, fifth year dentistry, blow by blow description of what “hmmm” means, but it sure as heck would be great to get a practical lay-persons analysis of what’s happening.

It would make me feel much better, it would make me appreciate what Buzz is doing, intends to do and why. It will also make me appreciate his invoice that much more.

Okay, let’s draw a conclusion here and see whether this major business point has application in your business.

I am advocating the need for you to keep your prospects, patients, customers, clients (and whatever else you might call them) fully informed of what you are doing for them and why.

“Fully informed” means that you are communicating with them in a way that they easily understand and appreciate what you’re doing.

Have you got any “hmmm” type people on staff?

Whenever you have a customer or client query your invoice or price, firstly, consider whether you have given them sufficient information so that they can make their minds up about the real value you have given them.

To all of the accountants out there, and I know we’ve got a lot of them as subscribers, please pay attention to this article because I know a lot of business people wonder what you do for the money you charge. It’s your duty to tell them and more fool you, if you don’t.

Does this point apply to the retail industry?

Of course…and the message is embodied in the word RETAIL as in:

Really make your customer feel welcome
Enquire about their needs
Talk in their language
Ask questions constantly
Invite them to buy
Leave them on a high.

Sorry, I left out the most important of them all…the S that converts RETAIL to RETAILS, as in:

Say and Sell the value of your product/service.
Let’s eliminate “hmmm” and all other forms of under-whelming our customers and when we do, profits will be up and so will customer satisfaction.

Source: Positive Business Newsletter


A Few Business Uses For SMS

As you know, the kids use SMS like crazy – and into the bargain, they’re re-inventing the way words are spelt. For instance, “goodbye” is now designated as simply “C U” as in “see you”! What would the great William Shakespeare think of this trend and what will the English language look like in 30 years time?

Anyhow, here is a list of business uses for SMS - given that it is so cheap and instant.

* To confirm a meeting
* To wish customers or associates a happy birthday or other celebration
* To thank a customer, supplier or other business associate
* To send a “specials” message to existing customers which offers them extraordinary value if they buy a particular product or service.

Why not think about how you could use SMS in your business?

Source: Positive Business Newsletter

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