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It Finally Happened. It Finally Did!

 – by Mark Deavall

Recently a client of mine said to me that “the sign of a good company is not that they never make a mistake. But rather how they recover from that mistake”. That hit me right between the eyes, and as result, not only do we concentrate on HOW we fix our mistakes when we make them (and we do. We’re not perfect), but I have started to “preach” this message at just about every opportunity that I get. But it’s been discouraging to find that although agreeing with me, a number of companies that we have been able to speak to still end up on or a similar website.

So it came as a huge surprise (one that put a smile on my face), when I read about a company that we have never worked with, putting this into practice.

As some of you may know, I am an avid reader of Car magazine, and in this month’s issue there is an article that that I find absolutely amazing. A reader writes in and states that he has always been an Alfa Romeo fan, and currently owns two of them. Over the years, the one has regularly developed a vibration problem. The dealer has repaired the problem only to have it come back a few thousand kilometers later. This went on for a number of years, and eventually the warranty ran out on the Alfa.

In desperation, the Alfa owner wrote Car magazine, who obviously forwarded the complaint on to Fiat SA (who are the Alfa agents in South Africa), and I would like to quote Fiat SA’s response.

Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa regrets the unfortunate series of events that culminated in this complaint and has taken immediate remedial action. We have arranged for the clients vehicle to be taken to another Alfa Romeo dealership in Pretoria to have the control arms replaced, which should have been attended to under the maintenance plan. We have also undertaken to inspect the client’s vehicle from bumper to bumper to ensure that the necessary maintenance work that should have been performed at the 80000km service has indeed been done. For the duration of the time that the client’s vehicle remains out of action, a courtesy car has been supplied”.

Bravo Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa! Sure your dealership, and by inference you, made a mistake. But Wow, how you’ve fixed it! Well done!

This brings me to the point of this article – providing value. Last week I ran a seminar in which the discussion centered on the word “value”. Too often when I hear people talking about value, they confuse the word with “values”. Values are the precepts to which you live your life or run your business. Value is what your customers experience of you and / or your company. So the discussion went around the definition of value, and the overwhelming feeling was that the definition of value is “value = maximum benefit with minimum hassle”. Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa is now really providing “maximum benefit with minimum hassle” to their client. Yes the client experienced maximum hassle before, but I can promise you that the previous experience pales into insignificance when compared to the benefit and lack of hassle that he is receiving now. Will this client buy another Alfa? I reckon he will.

So the issue is this. Are our businesses focused on providing value to the customer? How many of our business processes are geared around the maxim of “maximum benefit with minimum hassle”? Too often our business processes have been established with little or no concern for the hassle that they may cause the client. I wonder how many companies have, as one of their recruiting criteria, the desire in the prospective employee to minimize  “hassle” to the client.

In today’s economy and going forward, you have your competitors chipping away at your clients, just as you are chipping away at theirs. What is going to make a client move to your company as a supplier and stay with you? The provision of value - providing maximum benefit with minimum hassle. Make sure that all your staff and processes are committed to this maxim. It’ll make the client buy another “Alfa” from you.

Mark Deavall is the managing director of Merit Business Institute, a company devoted to the improvement of business performance. We trust that you have found benefit in this article. If you would like to contact Mark or have him talk to the people in your company, please call him on 27 11 609-1264, or e-mail me

This article is under strict copyright and may not be altered in any way for any purpose. If you would like to copy this article for any reason (which you are welcome to do), please be sure to copy the entire article including this paragraph.


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