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New Trends for Not-So-New Businesses

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Story by Ben Jones

With Vancouver’s reputation as a global hub for business, it is little surprise that many businesses are eager to capitalize on new trends that are shaping the world around us.

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For those who aren’t content to simply keep pace with their competitors, discovering new trends can be the edge that gives the savvy enterprise an advantage over the competition. In addition to capitalizing on the latest and greatest trends, there is an often overlooked strategy that you can use to improve your business.

Going Green

Green businesses are those that demonstrate a commitment to operating in an environmentally friendly manner. From the use of alternative energy sources to power their enterprise, to the use of environmentally-friendly packaging materials, to embracing an appropriate waste-management and recycling policy—green businesses are attracting the attention, and spending, of progressive consumers who seek to vote with their dollars to support businesses that make an effort to be good stewards of the environment that we all share. Here in Vancouver, where environmental-awareness is more than just idle talk, businesses that go green are enjoying the fruits of their labours.

Capitalizing on Counter-trends

When a market is saturated with a successful type of product and the many imitations that inevitably follow, it pays to think outside the box and go the opposite direction. When the fitted, overly ornate, belly-baring, designer T-shirt industry had become completely grid-locked, customers began to flock to American Apparel and their more conservative, simply styled T-shirts. This example of going against the grain shows how a business can enter an already overdone market and still find critical success.


For industries where there are one or more dominant companies, it makes little sense for the smaller company to attempt to compete with them directly. In this case, the trend of “coopetition” leads the agile small business to form a relationship with a larger company to provide additional services to their customers. In the case of online dating, is the 800-pound gorilla in that industry, yet smaller companies have come along to provide additional services to subscribers to provide photo-styling services, dinner reservations and even wedding planning. For those who can offer a valuable service to customers of a larger company, there are ways to enter a market without being squashed.

A not-so-secret strategy that can help your business do better…

Regardless of how effective a company is at marketing, advertising, or selling a product, many forget that their customers are their most valuable asset. For many small businesses, they assume the relationship with their customer ends when a sale is made and any issues their customers may have after the deal is concluded are annoyances to be ignored. A single unhappy customer can do more harm to a business than any public relations or marketing campaign. Joe Girard’s “Rule of 250” says that one unhappy customer will express his or her dissatisfaction to approximately 250 other people. The cost incurred to your business by even one unhappy customer can far exceed any investment made in cultivating a good relationship with your customers.

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A Case Study in Customer Satisfaction – Brian Jessel BMW

Jim Krahn is the Customer Relations Manager at Brian Jessel BMW. As the person responsible for the overall efforts towards customer satisfaction, he is quick to state that the automobile sales industry has had an enormous problem. Most everyone has at one time experienced an unpleasant situation when buying a new or pre-owned vehicle, or heard from someone who has. Unlike many other industries, automobile retailers have had an enormous challenge in overcoming the reticence most buyers have at setting foot into a dealership. The goal, according to Krahn, is in changing the mindset of buyers to build a level of trust .

To accomplish this goal, Krahn has created a Customer Relations department that has been commended by BMW Canada. This luminary model of customer relationship management begins and ends with the people who are responsible for serving the needs of Brian Jessel customers not only when they purchase their BMW, but for the entire term of their ownership. The primary type of employee that Krahn looks for is someone who sincerely cares about helping others. A candidate may have a decade of automotive industry experience, BMW certifications, and an ivy league education but if they are not passionate about solving problems for their customers, they are not going to make the grade on Krahn’s team.

This obsession with customer satisfaction is not merely an altruistic notion, it is sound business strategy. Brian Jessel BMW, along with all other BMW dealerships in Canada, receives an monthly report card that tells the dealership how it is performing compared to the other dealers across the country. This ranks each dealership by its success in nine key metrics that track not only sales figures, but the ever-important customer satisfaction rating. Thanks to its diligent efforts in cultivating and maintaining strong relationships with their customers, Brian Jessel BMW is one of the highest ranked BMW dealerships in Canada.

In a business climate where investment in customer satisfaction is often looked at as a cost-centre, Jim Krahn has proven that this investment can provide returns that other investments can only promise. As business leaders look to new strategies to help them thrive in the 21st century, it would be good to remember that the best new secret to success is really not that new. They need only remember that good business is not about closing a deal, it is about opening and maintaining a relationship.

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