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Keep it Real Part 1: When Tabasco did it, it was clever

By Mark Deavall

It is said that when Tabasco was looking to increase their sales, they approached their staff for ideas. One of the senior members of staff then approached the board and told them that he had an idea, but before disclosing it, he would like a written agreement guaranteeing him a percentage of the increased profits. This the board did, and his suggestion was to simply make the hole bigger. Not moral, but clever!

I have been using a shampoo manufactured and marketed by a well known international company (according to South African law, I may not mention their name, and I really would like to), for more years than I care to remember. There are a number of reasons why I use this shampoo – 1) it works. 2) The bottle is of a shape that fits my hand perfectly especially when I’m in the shower, soap in my eyes and I’m groping for the shampoo bottle. 3) Without having to look, I am able to control the amount of shampoo that I put in my hand. 4) It lasted for months, and therefore was good value for money.

So about a month ago I had run out of shampoo and my wife bought me another bottle. In the shower I blindly groped for the bottle, twisted the top off, turned it upside down and felt a huge quantity of shampoo run into and over my hand. I washed the soap out of my eyes and had a look. This international company, whose name I would love to mention but am not allowed to, had doubled the size of the hole! Well I persevered with this shampoo and had to buy another bottle within 2 weeks. So instead of using a bottle every two months, I am now using 2 bottles a month!

The question that now arises is will I continue to buy this particular shampoo? The answer? No! Why? Because I feel ripped off. No matter how I stretch my mind, I cannot for the life of me come up with a reasonable argument as to why this international company should have, after all these years, doubled the size of the hole. The only reason that I do come up with is to increase sales. When Tabasco did it, it immoral but clever, when this international shampoo manufacturer copied them, it was simply immoral!

Another case. I needed to buy a replacement battery for my car. So I went up to a local battery shop that is part of a franchise (according to South African law, I may not mention their name, and I really would like to), in my wife’s car. Now I would have thought that I ask for a battery, they put it on the counter, I pay and I leave with my battery. Ten minutes tops. It took me forty minutes! Why, because of systems designed to control stock and inconvenience a customer as much as possible. When I enquired as to why I couldn’t just pay and go, I was told that, “head-office doesn’t allow that”. Will I go back? Not likely! They, and the international shampoo manufacturer, seem to have forgotten the cardinal rule of business – never ever make your customer mad!

This important principle in business is what companies seem to be forgetting about. It is the foundation on which a successful business is built and sustained – never ever make your customer mad! The only thing standing between your company’s success and financial ruin is your customer!

Funny how, when I say this kind of thing in seminars the people nod their heads in agreement vigorously, and then walk out and proceed to develop systems, products and delivery methods without the slightest thought for the customers convenience in mind.

Customer satisfaction starts with buying a product at a fair price. A customer will continue to use your service or product because of the positive experience they have while using your service or product. Fall down on one of those, and you are flirting with disaster.

The day that a company asks their clients what it is that they want in terms of product and service, and then proceed to supply that product and service consistently, is the day that company starts to show enormous profits.

Therefore, every person in your company needs to be focused on never getting the customer mad. That does not mean we don’t make mistakes. It means that everything we do revolves around customer comfort, even the way in which we fix our mistakes.


Mark Deavall is the founder and managing director of Merit Business Institute, a company dedicated to increasing the productivity of people throughout the world. If you would like Mark to present a talk or training course for your company, please e-mail me

Should you wish to forward, copy or publish this article, please be sure to do so with the entire article including this line.

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