Let’s start with a question: What’s your favorite restaurant and why? I’m sure the food is good, but I’m guessing there’s a lot more than just good food that makes it number one for you. If you’re like most people, you like your restaurant because of the way you feel when you’re there. The staff is well trained, happy, and efficient; the place is well-kept, and they have a way of making you feel special when you go there.

Interestingly, the cost of the meal is not anywhere close to the top of the list of reasons why you like it. When a restaurant succeeds in inspiring your devotion, the price takes a back seat.

Is there a lesson in this that we can put to work in our manufacturing businesses?

Obviously, the stuff we produce is quite a bit different than the signature plate at Mancini’s Italian Bistro. A lot of what HUB clients produce are considered commodity goods, and as such, are very price-competitive. How realistic is it to imagine that we could build a business culture that was so attractive that our clients wouldn’t take their business elsewhere the moment they found a better price?

This is the premise of John DiJulius’ Secret Service program. DiJulius is the founder of the John Robert’s Hair Studio & Spa, one of the top salons in the U.S. Founded in 1993, DiJulius grew his salon to 130 employees and three
locations with an unheard of 70% retention rate of new clients in just 10 years. His demonstrated flair for creating a corporate culture with outstanding customer service values has led to bigger opportunities as a corporate consultant. He has worked with such companies as Chick-fil-A, Lexus, and Progressive Insurance to put in place systems to improve customer service.

And DiJulius believes there is no business that can’t be more successful by focusing on giving clients service that exceeds their expectations.

We at HUB have been devoting a lot of energy lately to adopting these systems. Some of us attended the last Secret Service Summit that DiJulius and his marketing group host every year.

As DiJulius relates from his own experience building his salon:

We started off in typical fashion, with an impressive philosophy and written mission statement, with the hopes that our staff would automatically observe them every day, every time. But as our employees’ numbers grew from 2 to 15 to 30 to 50 and then to 130, we found it very difficult if not impossible to provide a high level of service on a regular basis. It became obvious that we would eventually become an ordinary business that couldn’t execute what it preached if we didn’t find a way to create and manage systems that employees could consistently deliver.

The thing is, many of the systems we’ve been implementing have only a minimal cost. A lot of incremental adjustments in the way we do things can add up to a vastly improved client satisfaction. A lot of it has to do with giving our staff a clear framework of what we expect. Employees need to know that they have the permission to apply company resources to fix problems and how much they can do at their own discretion without needing additional approval.

We’ve been on this campaign for some time now, and I’m starting to see some fruit as a result of the “secret service” policies we’ve put in place. If you want to know more, give me a call and I’ll be glad to talk to you about it. Or you can get a copy of DiJulius’ book, entitled Secret Service, where he discusses his systems and how they’ve been applied to a variety of businesses.

One of the things I’ve learned from my experiences is that companies tend to have an inflated view of their public perception… If you have any criticism of the way we treat our clients or suggestion of how we can be even better,
I’d love to hear what you have to say. You can reach me at or, better yet, give me a call at the office!

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