From the May 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

A lot of people say you can't astonish customers," says Brian McCallum, marketing director for Communication Briefings, an Alexandria, Virginia-based company that publishes a newsletter, videos and reports on workplace communication. "But there's a big difference between good customer service and astonishing customer service." According to McCallum, here's how to dazzle your customers:

Offer to do customers a favor that's above and beyond the call of duty. McCallum cites a moving firm whose owner personally delivered a kitchen set at no cost--in his own station wagon.

Underpromise and overdeliver. Tell them you can have it done by 5 p.m. tomorrow; then have it done by noon.

Give customers a benefit they don't know exists. If you offer coupons, give customers who forget the coupons or don't know about them a discount anyway.

Put concern above profit. Don't schmooze customers into buying higher-priced products. Show them you have their best interests in mind by selling them only what they need. They'll value--and remember--your honesty.

Follow up with customers after they do business with you--especially if they've purchased big-ticket items. Says McCallum, "As the value of the product gets higher, follow-up becomes a more important issue."

Showing Off

If you've never exhibited at a trade show before, the whole process can seem a bit mysterious. Because trade shows aren't inexpensive, you want to be sure your investment in exhibiting pays off--and that means you'd better do it right.

Thankfully, novice exhibitors can get free help from a 69-page kit created by Skyline Displays Inc. to help companies get the most out of trade shows.

"There are 4,300 trade shows every year in the U.S. and Canada," says Michael Thimmesch, marketing manager at Burnsville, Minnesota-based Skyline, a designer and manufacturer of trade show exhibits. "[The kit] gives entrepreneurs information about all the different aspects of exhibiting at a trade show."

The kit includes photos of sample trade show displays, how-tos on selecting shows and staffing booths, marketing and follow-up strategies, and tips on budgeting, space selection, installation and dismantling. To order, call (800) 328-2725 or write to Skyline Displays Inc., Dept. GDA, 12345 Portland Ave.
S., Burnsville, MN 55337.

Just The Geeks, Maam

If a guy wearing a '50s FBI suit with flood pants, white socks and a badge shows up at your office saying he's Special Agent Jones, don't panic. He's from The Geek Squad, and he's there to fix your computer.

A "24-hour on-site rapid-response computer task force" in Minneapolis, The Geek Squad is the brainchild of 28-year-old Robert C. Stephens. No dork he, Stephens has transformed $200 and some wacky marketing moves into a $500,000-a-year computer support business in less than three years. How did he do it? "Creativity in the absence of capital," says Stephens.

In this case, creativity translated into much more than the offbeat dress of the 14 "special agents" who work for The Geek Squad: They drive Geekmobiles that give new meaning to the phrase "company car." Among the fleet are two black ice cream trucks and a 1960 Ford Falcon police car complete with a nonworking siren, all emblazoned with The Geek Squad logo.

So what does Stephens have up his sleeve for The Geek Squad's future? Says the entrepreneur, "I want to become the rapid oil change of the computer support industry." Did somebody say drive-thru window?

Contact Sources

Communication Briefings, (800) 888-2084, (http://www.combriefings.com);