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Marketing 101

April 2000
By: Jerry Thacker

Perhaps you should take some time to review what happens from the time a client approaches your center and walks through your door. Do it with the intent of improving your service.

There is a humorous British comedy on PBS entitled, "Are You Being Served?" The players in this typical British department store consider themselves to be highly professional yet prove to be totally inept. Despite their best efforts, they deliver more bungling hilarity than service. But true service in today's economy is nothing to laugh at.

Researchers tell us that by the time a child growing up in the U. S. reaches first grade, he has seen more than 24,000 hours of television and literally thousands of commercials. Product advertising creates the expectation of service that is fast, personal, and professional. It is out of this dynamic, commercially driven, time-pressured society that your clients come. How well are you serving them? How well is your product being received? Have you looked at your center from the standpoint of a first-time client? Perhaps you should take some time to review what happens from the time a client approaches your center and walks through your door. Do it with the intent of improving your service. Let's take a little quiz. Check the answers that best describe your center.

Is there an easily read sign out front directing new clients where they should go?
Yes    No

Is the front door clean and in good repair?
Yes    No

Reception Area
If clients walk into a waiting room, is the furniture clean with no rips or tears?
Yes    No

Are the waiting room area walls clean and well kept? Are they decorated well?
Yes    No

Are materials in the waiting room invitingly organized and neatly arranged?
Yes    No

Are waiting room periodicals up-to-date?
Yes    No

Do you display the appropriate law signs regarding discrimination in service?
Yes    No

Is the receptionist desk or window clearly marked as such?
Yes    No

Have reception personnel been trained to smile and put the client at ease?
Yes    No

Reception Area (continued)
Have you set a limited amount of time during which you expect clients to be greeted?
Yes    No

If refreshments are available, is the area where they are located clean and neat?
Yes    No

If toddler toys are available, are they easily washable for sanitation purposes?
Yes    No

Are toddler toys assigned a place and neatly stacked there frequently?
Yes    No

If you have clients from more than one language group, are your signs bilingual or multilingual?
Yes    No

Intake Form
Do reception personnel offer to help the client fill out the intake form?
Yes    No

Is your intake form laid out clearly and simply using a 5th grade reading level?
Yes    No

Is your intake form printed in a professional manner with even ink and color?
Yes    No

Did your reception personnel tell the client what to do with the form when it was completed?
Yes    No

Perhaps you are saying, "Wow, we haven't even gotten to the counseling room yet!" And that's the point. There is no second chance to make a good first impression. Center directors tell us that the best facilities are neither too "baby" nor too "medical." The best look is somewhere in between -- a homey atmosphere where care and services are provided.

While it is true that centers usually offer their services at no charge, keep in mind that the opposition is also competing in the marketplace of service delivery. In this crisis-driven venue, perception is reality. Please remember, perception starts before the client calls or enters the door. What types of perceptual cues are your personnel giving?

A few other pointers:
Unless providentially hindered, keep appointments on schedule. In our time-pressed society, stealing one's time is more of a sin that stealing his money.

A friend of mine used to run a product reclamation service. Company trucks would pick up damaged products from grocery and drug stores. The products would be bar-code scanned and the manufacturer was given a "charge-back" for damaged goods to offset the amount invoiced the retailer. My friend found that the best motivator he could use with the entry level folks who scanned the scratched and dented products was not money, nor was it overtime, nor was it incentive rewards. It was time. The workers performed best when assigned a certain number of pieces to do each day and allowed to go home when the assignment was completed. Respect a person's time, or he will hate you.

My own primary research in visiting centers all across the country revealed that there was one most highly regarded attribute of the service provided by the centers. Time and time again, young women gave testimony that what they appreciated most was the caring attitudes of their counselors. Caring of this magnitude can come only from someone who understands the fears, concerns, and anxieties of a young woman in crisis.

The center's clients' problems extend beyond the physical, medical, financial, and material. Ultimately, all these problems are spiritual. The counselor who knows the grace of God and can convey the love of Christ to the woman in crisis meets her real need. It's the total package -- the full service only a Christian ministry can provide.

Jerry Thacker, B.A., M.A. heads Marketing Partners, Inc., a marketing communications company that publishes Today's Christian Teen, Today's Christian Preacher, and Today's Christian Senior magazines. He is a competent researcher, writer, publisher, presenter, broadcaster, teacher, and public speaker. Jerry has made appearances on the Janet Parshal and Oliver North radio programs, Focus on the Family, cable TV networks, and local network affiliates. He can be reached at (800) 588-7744.

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