By Justin Martin€¦ · presented him with a hockey stick autographed by Wayne Gretzky and packed...

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Transcript of By Justin Martin€¦ · presented him with a hockey stick autographed by Wayne Gretzky and packed...

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    78  FSB  october 2007

    gered. Trainers then decide how to respond case by case. Some-times they call and gently urge the laggard to get back to the gym. Other times more subtle tactics are called for. Recently someone joined the gym planning to run a marathon, but stopped coming while in the throes of a messy divorce. After three weeks an alert went out. Rather than calling, Chapman e-mailed an article about marathon training. The man soon returned to the gym.

    Chapman started HyperFit in 2004 and says he still has nearly all of his first 50 customers. Membership has since grown to about 300. This year it will collect $400,000 in revenue and

    is profitable, according to Chapman. Both a Bally and a Gold’s gym are within a mile of his facility, yet he’s been able to com-pete effectively. Next he wants to take HyperFit national.

    Apply a Human Touch

    While it’s� hard enough to get good s�ervice from brick-and-mortar businesses, finding it on the Internet can be ever tougher. The upside of e-com-

    merce is that you can shop from the comfort of your home at 2 a.m. The downside: Just try finding a customer-service phone

    number on the average website. Most online vendors promise e-mail support, but a recent study by JupiterResearch (jupiterresearch.com) found that more than a third took at least three days to respond, and many never did. Inspired by the poor service she

    encountered on the Internet, Kassie Rempel, 34, quit her job as a finan-cial planner and started SimplySoles (simplysoles.com), an online women’s shoe emporium. Rempel’s company, based in Washington, D.C., specializes in high-fashion shoes. Some notable designers, such as Bettye Muller (bet-tyemuller.com), have created designs exclusively for SimplySoles. Given the haute pricetag (average pair: $275), you can bet there’s a toll-free number, and it’s even possible to reach Rempel directly. For certain customers Simply-Soles will send out a selection of shoes —no charge, no commitment. To qual-ify, one doesn’t have to be a loyal cus-tomer or place a huge order—although that certainly helps. Sometimes Sim-plySoles provides this service to a first-time customer who is unsure of her ex-act size in a particular brand. Other times the decision is made on a gut feeling. “I won’t do this with everyone,” says Rempel. “It’s based on my comfort level and that of my staff.”

    These select customers can try on shoes in their homes to see which pair looks best with a particular outfit. Customers are billed only when they make a purchase; the remaining shoes can be sent back to SimplySoles in pre-paid mailers at a cost of about $12 a returned pair roundtrip. Kaethy Ken-nedy, 42, is an L.A. executive who is ac-tive online: shopping, banking, paying bills. She often orders European styles from SimplySoles and says the sizes don’t always correlate to American

    Like mosT smALL Firms, my company, integrated Visual systems (ivsi.com), depends on

    customer referrals to survive. so when i heard that one of our big software-installation projects had gone awry, i was sure our reputation would suffer—and as a result, so would our growth.

    A large apparel manufacturer had hired us to design an inventory system for its five warehouses. We developed a program that printed unique bar-code labels that warehouse personnel would attach to some 200,000 items. over several months, we installed $1 million worth of custom software.

    Three weeks before the launch, one of our engineers conducted a test run in the client’s warehouse in mexico. When he scanned one of the bar-code labels, he knew there was a major problem. instead of unique numbers, the program was receiving the same data for every item. All the labels had to be reprinted and reattached to the merchandise. i phoned the client and took responsibility for the problem. i assured him he’d bear no extra costs and the job would stay on schedule.

    We created a new program and sent extra printers and label stock from our inventory to the warehouses. We also rented lift trucks to provide extra access to the upper racks. our entire staff of 20 employees went from our

    Scramble the JetsAfter I blew a job for a big client, I threw every resource I had at the problem. by DAvID LevI

    above �and �beyond �Ceo Levi found that fixing mistakes strengthens client ties.

    headquarters in matthews, N.C., to the customer’s main facility to rela-bel the items. iVs absorbed the cost of air travel, accommodations, and meals for everyone for three consecu-tive weekends. We asked for (and received) volunteers from the client’s staff to work on the weekends. We paid their overtime wages. some $35,000 later, the system launched flawlessly on the scheduled date.

    Afterward i met with the facility manager to apologize again for our error. To my surprise, he said that he now felt more confident in his deci-sion to hire us than he had when the contracts were signed. experience had taught him that there are no per-fect installations, but there are perfect reactions to a problem.

    some companies never admit er-rors. others acknowledge them but expect the customer to bear the cost of fixing them. By admitting and cor-recting our mistake, we made our relationship with the client stronger. Nearly a quarter of the customers we work with today came from that cli-ent’s referrals. —As ToLd To emiLy mALTBy

    jEFFERYMCCUllOUGh

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