Service Industry Marketing and the New Phone Book

Are you keeping up with the times? I have to tell you that I hear a lot of Marketing techniques but a lot of them don’t apply to us in the Service Business. Even the new techniques that tell you how to promote your business on-line are inapplicable. So, I’ve been working on trying to show people what is working for me on-line and what I think might be the future for us. You can tweak your website all you want. You can even have it listed on the top of search engines for a time. You may pay for search advertising and get some visits. But, if you have a long term view of your business then you need to start now and continue working on what I think is the single most important Marketing device for the service business.

When people look for a local business, what do you think they are looking for more than a fancy website? I believe that it is reputation and then price. Why reputation? Without a good reputation, the price doesn’t matter. If a company has a good reputation, the customer knows that they will get what they paid for. The next thought in their mind becomes what price will I have to pay for this service. What can you do today to start building your “local” on-line reputation? If you haven’t done so already, then go to your favorite search engine and type in “submit a local website” followed by the website you want to list your company in. Set up your profile in it’s entirety. From pictures to everything else.

Once you have done that, then when you are on a job and as soon as you finish that job ask the customer to go on-line to give you a review. Find out if they have a Gmail, Bing (MSN) or Yahoo account. Take them to that search engine and type in your company name and city. This will bring your company to the local listings. Now have them give you a review right there and then. Also, have them read the other reviews if they like and see if they will press the “I liked this review” button. That’s it! If you do this every day, then you are telling everyone in your community that you have a good reputation.

Now, there are other ways to do this faster. Like contacting your customers, telling your friends who are customers and also others who are in the service business to trade reviews with you. Why I think this is important is that in the future this way of finding local service will serve as the fastest and safest way for a customer to find you. It will eliminate the “newbies” from getting a jump on you. You’ll have the jump on them by years. Here is the local listing future as I see it today. The search engines have a free listing right now and the services listed are in the order of who is closest to the person doing the search query. Eventually, they will charge for the top listings. But, if your reputation is sparkling clean, your target audience will choose you over the paid ones. So, do it now. Book-mark this article so you can return to it for questions and links. Don’t wait too long, as this information will be out dated like everything else.

If you need help getting your first review, email me ( [email protected] ) with your website and city and a little description about your reputation and I will be happy to do your first review.

The Best Investment of Time in the Hospitality Or Food Services Industry – An Operations Manual

In a restaurant or food services hospitality operation an operations manual is a most useful and vital tool and support. You might even consider operations manual as vital and essential to your business or service as the very utensils in your kitchens. An operation manual will help you to train employees to perform specific duties for each position, from pot scrubber to maitre d’, from fry cook to general manager.

In your operations manual or manuals take the time and effort to thoroughly explain each position, including duties, standards and objectives. Make it a point to tell your employees what they are on the job to do, how to perform those tasks and services, when to do it, your quality standards and so on. It’s up to you to be clear and specific. Vagaries are not a wise idea or choice. If you do not take the time to provide this reference – explaining the rules and procedures of the game, and what is expected how else can you expect your business to be solid, consistent and maintain it or your reputation and lastly grow as well. You cannot be on hand 24 hours a day. However an operations manual is always there and on hand. Ready to be used, utilized and referred to as a most valuable reference.

The more detailed you can be, then the more thorough and successful your training will be. Outline in black and white what you want your staff to do. You may well feel like you have to spend a lot of time outing together, checking and revising to a final cut, your operations manual. When the dust settles in the future it will well be the best investment of time in your restaurant or food services business that you will ever make. You will not have to spend time explaining and re-explaining how, when and why to do things or certain tasks. The details will be written down in a clear, well explained fashion – not on the seat of your pants in an emergency or late of night. With the details written down clearly and succinctly for employees, the time, effort and money spent on employees and their training time spent. You will be up and running your operation and specific events such as banquets or catering much more rapidly or quickly than otherwise.

As an example of the specifics that should be included in job-specific operations manuals.

For example in the case of servers and food or beverage serving staff. Your server operations manual should include standards of service , time cycling ( that is when to order which food , when to clear plates and tables for example), product knowledge, opening and closing procedures, side work expectations, kitchen interaction parameters and cash handling procedures.

In the case of the operation manuals sections dealing with “line cooks” – this line cook operations manual should contain station openings and closing procedures, standardized recipes for that station, prep amounts based on volume. Along with these should be such concerns and procedures as station -specific proper food handling rules and state regulations and guidelines. Lastly a crystal clear kitchen cleaning list, procedure and most importantly a kitchen cleaning responsibilities chart. In some cases this may be listed by specific employees. In larger and more fluid food service operations the assignments can be by title or position. If there are a number of separate areas or departments each should have its own specific manual.

Lastly you may think that with all the effort you are putting into setting up a seamless organization that your staff and service levels may be so good and outstanding that your best employees may be “stolen “or pilfered by competitors. This may happen and may occur. This is the best complement, advertising and promotion that any food services operation can ever hope or wish for. Imitation is the best complement and advertising. If your service levels and staff are exceptional , if presentation and delivery is so free of any troubles , mistakes or mishaps that your food service business indeed gets known by these standards. On top of that if all the above positives can be counted on to be consistent you’ve done more than your job and should be commended and congratulated. Maintaining levels of service in a consistent manner all begin with an investment of time and effort in developing your company’s employee manual and manuals.

Home Inventory Service Industry Continues To Develop

There aren’t many industries that have been around for what many would call “forever” and still be in – what would appear to be – its infancy. But the home inventory industry is one of those.

In the fall of 2008, I published an article titled Home Inventory Service – A Growing Industry. It was true then, as I cited there were only about 20 known service providers in the United States in 2004 and by 2008 over 500 had been established. The numbers continue to grow.

Unfortunately, I hear of many inventory companies not achieving success. This, then, has hurt or slowed down the success of others. For instance, when we first met with insurance agents, we had a fair amount of naysayers. More than one agent told us of previous home inventory service providers who quit their business without notice. The insurance professionals had been referring their clients and then found they had no one to continue to take care of the inventories as promised. Thus, we were told to come back in one and a half to two years, and if we were still in business, they would refer us. That is a long time to wait! It reminds me of a college graduate who can’t get a job because he has no experience – how do you get experience when no one will provide the opportunity for you to have a job?

Another reason for it taking a while to become a known service is the variance within the industry. Mostly a mom-and-pop type of ownership, there is little consistency from one to the other. Some use video while others take still photos. The written reports (for those that even offer one) vary as well. Through my research, I find that some inventory service providers offer online backup, others keep CDs in safety deposit boxes, and still others don’t offer any type of backup at all. There are just as many options for updating an inventory from none offered to annual renewal options to keep the information current.

The customers, or target markets, are just as varied. Some companies offer just home inventories while others serve the commercial market as well.

Possibly the reasons for the service is the biggest differentiator. Disaster preparedness and recovery were and remain the key known purposes of a personal property inventory. When you don’t know what you own, and have to file an insurance claim, you will recover from a disaster with a higher settlement when you can remember and prove what you own.

There are other needs served by an inventory; each come with slight differences in some of the process. For example, when creating an inventory for estate settlement, knowledge of fair market value is imperative. Some inventory service provides might not have that desire to offer this type of service. This explains the inconsistency in what type of inventories are provided from company to company. Additionally, some inventory companies offer after disaster inventory assistance, while others choose not to.

This industry is very loose, with no certification or registration required. This makes it important for those who want to purchase an inventory service to get a referral.

To help create standardization, there are groups forming to share ideas. Another option is to purchase a turnkey business package where all the Group Members are trained and receive continuing mentoring from the founders to help create consistency within the industry. This will help ensure a standardized process throughout the country, with a group of companies all providing the same process, working together to offer solid, professional services.

The consistency will also open the door for others to enter this rewarding field. This will, in turn, encourage the industry to continue to develop at a much faster pace.

Business and Industry in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is known as one of the major industrial centres in the UK. In the times of Henry VIII it became the first place in the world to have a ‘dry dock’ built, following this it became one of the Royal Ports and its tradition of repairing and building ships for the Royal Navy began.

Vosper-Thorneycroft (VT) is the major ship-builder still located in Portsmouth. It carries on the long tradition of naval ship building and repairs that dates back to Tudor times in the city. Currently building the Royal navy’s new Type 45 destroyers, it has also recently won a contract to build smaller vessels for the Royal Oman Navy. In 2003 Rolls Royce acquired the marine electrical systems side of Vosper-Thorneycroft’s business. Like VT, Rolls Royce has several manufacturing sites across the UK working on military projects. Its Portsmouth factory at Cosham employs about 120 people working on a range of electrical products from propulsion units to control systems. Mclaren Composites is a company that occupies a niche between the old manufacturing industries and the newer ‘hi-tech’ ones. Originally established in 1989 as Mclaren Cars by the former racing driver Ron Dennis, the company became the first to manufacture a F1 racing car with a composite body. Mclaren composites relocated from Guilford in Surrey to Portsmouth in 2003. Apart from making some of the best racing car bodies in the world, Mclaren Composites also work with high volume car manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, producing Carbon fibre bodies for the SLR range of vehicles. The Pall Corporation has its UK offices in Portsmouth at Europa House on Havant Street in the city centre. Pall Corporation is one of the worlds leading companies in filtration and purification systems and works primarily on related technologies for the pharmaceutical industry.

To give it its full name, Her Majesties Naval Base Portsmouth is undoubtedly the single largest employer in the city. It employs several thousands of people working on the ships that have their home port in Portsmouth. Two thirds of the Royal Navy’s ships are based here meaning there is an abundance of repair and logistical support work available.

Realising that it could not for ever be reliant on ship-building or heavy industry, Portsmouth has been successful in attracting some ‘hi-tech’ and ‘blue chip’ companies. One such company is EADS-Astrium; a leading space telecommunications company which has premises in Portsmouth. The company specialises in constructing satellites that aid military navigation and communications. The UK Ministry of Defence uses their SKYNET 4 & 5 systems. IBM has for many years used Portsmouth as one of its major locations within the UK. With a location at North Harbour visible from the M27 motorway the Portsmouth offices of IBM are their Head Offices in the UK. IBM – International Business Machines, was established as a company in its own right in 1911 in the USA, its Portsmouth office employs several hundred people locally and several thousands throughout the UK. For many decades now it has been one of the world leaders in developing Information & Communication Technologies. A younger ‘hi-tech’/computer company based in Portsmouth is Climax who produce cross-platform games for the computer industry. Established in 1988 they are the company behind the ‘computer’ version of the television game – ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’. Actually involved in the manufacture of computers is NovaTech who have their Head Office and manufacturing base in Portsmouth. They are based in the Castle Trading Estate at Portchester, where they both build and sell computers. Established in 1987 they originally sold through ‘mail-order’, but are now one of the larger UK makers and sellers of low-cost desktop and laptop computers.

Portsmouth is a major harbour for all manner of sailing vessels, Ferries sail from Portsmouth to Santander in Spain, St Malo & Cherbourg in Brittany, Caen in Normandy, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. The two main ferry companies operating out of Portsmouth are P&O and Brittany Ferries, both of which are important employers in the city. Brittany Ferries was originally a freight carrier between Roscoff in Brittany and Portsmouth delivering artichokes and cauliflowers to Britain. Whilst still involved in the freight business carrying nearly 200,000 lorries a year, it is now responsible for over 2.5 million passenger journeys a year in some three quarters of a million cars. Brittany Ferries is still owned by the co-operative of French farmers that started the company in 1972. With a history dating back to the early 19th century, P&O are one of the best known British shipping companies. One of the ports they operate out of is Portsmouth with ferries sailing to Bilbao in northern Spain.

With office locations all over the UK, the Portsmouth offices of the Zurich Insurance Financial Services company employs over 100 people and is the regional office for business in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire.