Thursday, December 29, 2011


I'd given up years ago on New Year's Resolutions. I could never think of any inspiring goals, and that made me feel guilty. When I decided to give up guilt a (blessed) decade ago, I also gave up resolutions.

But this year, a couple of 'em popped into my head spontaneously. One is to put what little extra cash I have each month into a trip fund, so I can take a real vacation every year (or maybe every other) and finally get cracking on my lifelong ambition to be a well-traveled individual. The other is to research an ancestor whom I've always been curious about and determine whether there's enough material in his life story for a novel or non-fiction book.

I really like both resolutions, so I'm going to actually put them on my "task list" and try to follow through.

Well, service strategist John Tschohl, founder of The Service Quality Institute and author of seven books, recommends that small businesses make 2012 resolutions as well. Here's a look at his top five:

Price – Competition is fierce these day and people want the best prices.  Make sure your price is competitive because with new shopping apps, customers can find the lowest prices with very little research.  
Quality – This is another area where small businesses can really win big because big chains are focused on quantity instead of quality.  When a customer has a problem, small businesses are more knowledgeable, have specialists in many cases, and can truly provide an unparalleled level of quality to the customer.
Service – This is where so many companies go wrong, and it’s where small businesses can really prosper.  Get to know your customers on a first name basis, know their wants and preferences, and take care of the little things that the big chains can’t.  Many small businesses don’t have the lowest prices, but they dominate in service. 
Empowerment – All employees need to feel empowered to make a decision on the spot in favor of the customer.  Employees want to be empowered but fear repercussions from management.  Give your employees a limit, perhaps $25 or $50 that they can spend on a customer to fix a problem.  For what a lifelong customer is going to spend, this should be a no brainer.
Speed - This goes hand in hand with empowerment.  Think of speed as the jelly to empowerment’s peanut butter; they form a perfect combination.  Customers want problems solved by yesterday, so act quickly.  

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