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Consumer View: Customer Obsession
by Bettina Grahek


My dog runs in the front door, whips his body around the corner and lands his large (no doubt about it) round snout in the middle of box of sausages strategically placed on a low counter and pulls one out. Then he pulls another one out. And then still a third. Happy, happy, happy! Betty steps around the corner, applauds my dog's assertive attack on the sausages and welcomes him into her business. My dog is ecstatic - and I'm absolutely thrilled!

I'm a consumer. Like most pet owners, I love my dog - enough so that I have just spent an entire Saturday afternoon (and not that I have time to do this) driving from town to town visiting local veterinarians and snooping around in their kennels trying to find a perfect fit for my beloved dog. I know what I'm looking for though honestly have never seen it, much less found it. In the coming year it is expected that I'll spend 7 consecutive weeks away from my pooch, and for my own comfort, I need to know that he will be loved and taken care of in my absence. Am I desperate for a particular kind of business? I'd say quite a bit so.

With a greeting smile and a warm "hello" and hug (for my dog) Betty takes Luke to the counter and feeds him delicious treats while I stand in awe of my most recent finding. My dog is happy - I'm happy. When Luke is thoroughly saturated with canine goodies, I ask Betty if she'd mind showing me around the business. Remember? I'm soul searching kennels…I know what I'm looking for, but have never seen it. Off we go down a long hall to the kennels. "It's a kindergarten for pets!" I nearly fall over. Not just a kennel, not just a boarding facility, but a "kindergarten." Yes, that's what she said. Even her vet brings his dog here. And the going rate for this kindergarten? $14.50 per day! (That's nearly double the rate I encountered while visiting the local vets.) Will I pay it? Read on.

Everything is clean. The walls are white. The kennel floors are painted a bold pink - my favorite color. Am I happy that my dog will sleep on pink floors while I'm out of town for 7 weeks? You betcha. Animal prints, paintings, and sculpture line the halls. Does this business worship the customer? I'd say so!

Betty takes me from room to room sharing and pointing out the details of her business that convince me I've found the perfect "home away from home" for my beloved pet - a kindergarten camp for my dog. Each kennel is separated in part by a concrete divider about 3 ft tall - an important detail and necessity, she tells me, as a means of keeping each pet clean and free of debris from neighboring pets. Each pet not only has his own sleeping quarters, but also a lambskin cot and a little blue towel (detail, detail!) added to absorb any moisture left behind during cleaning. Can you believe this? Each of the sleeping quarters has an adjacent runner through which access to the kindergarten "recess and recreation" yard is acquired. Does this business owner have toys in the yard for her customers? Absolutely! Down the hall we go to the next chamber where each feline has his/her own multi-level condo complete with resting mounts high above the canopy for cats who aspire to thrive in jungle-like conditions. Yes, the big cats are quite at home here also!

Well enough of the details (yes, there are plenty more) - you get the picture. This business is completely devoted to its customers. It's a true customer-focused, customer-centered, customer-driven and customer-obsessive business. I am absolutely sold on this business. And from the number of dogs, cats, and iguanas, "campers" as Betty calls them, camped out at this facility, clearly others are equally sold as well. Betty's business is memorable.

Theory to practice.

I left Luke with Betty for a few days during the next week while I attended a conference in Charlotte. Family members of other "campers" were there the evening when I arrived back to pick up my dog. Recognizing that I was a new customer to the business, from the line of people just behind me came the faint words, "Wait till you see what you get before you walk out the door." Just at that moment, on the counter, Betty had placed a little green "Camper Report Card" - just the kind I received when I was a little girl in elementary school - only this one had a star on it. Luke's first report card! "And you'll never believe some of the things they have to say about our pets!"

Good businesses are easy to find. Great ones? A bit more difficult. But customer obsessed businesses are rare and truly a pleasurable experience for the consumer. All Creatures Great & Small is an exemplar of the best in quality service for the customer obsessed business. My favorite business is All Creatures Great & Small!

All Creatures Great & Small is owned and operated by Betty Kronenwetter. For further information, you can reach Betty at All Creatures Great & Small, Rt. 5, Box 16C, Hwy 701 South, Whiteville, NC 28472 (910)640-1909.


The Author


Bettina Ann Grahek is an educational administrator with a passion for teaching and leading new thinking, new beliefs, and new practices for leadership in education. Contact Bettina c/o The CEO Refresher.

Many more articles in High Performance Retail in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2003 by Bettina Ann Grahek. All rights reserved.

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