SOUTH ELGIN – Tossing out Tootsie Pops and bits of
business advice, professional speaker Rita Emmett urged a group of area
business leaders last week not to forget one of the most potent assets a
company can have: its own customer base.
Emmett delivered the talk "Generating Customer
Loyalty Means Good Business" during the annual meeting last week of the
South Elgin Business Association. Weaving stories from her past as an
educator and mother along with business insights, Emmett employed
metaphors and candy to connect with the audience.
Taking care of the business you’ve already developed pays off. According
to Emmett, creating new customers requires five times more effort as
providing service to existing customers.
The Des Plaines woman told the 110 people in attendance that perfection
is unattainable, but excellence is achievable.
Along those lines, earlier in the meeting, SEBA elected new officers and
presented the group’s first Community Image Award to the Centennial
Committee of the village for its role in the past summer’s event.
"To me, a satisfied customer is a ‘C’ on a report card," she said.
"We’re looking for A’s and B’s."
Rob Ferrigan, a commercial banker at Old Kent Bank in Elgin, called
Emmett "very motivational and captivating."
"The fact she is Irish didn’t hurt, either," Ferrigan chuckled.
On a serious note, Ferrigan said that when he encountered a friend who
was frustrated with a situation the next day, he passed on Emmett’s
message of not trying for perfection, but reaching for excellence.
Emotion sparks loyalty, she added. Emmett related an incident one snowy
night when her car ended up in a ditch many miles from home. Bedraggled
and doubtful there would be space at a nearby hotel, Emmett encountered
a clerk who quickly assured her that the hotel would do everything in
its power to arrange for a tow truck and to make other accommodations.
Emmett hasn’t forgotten the episode, and now frequents the hotel chain
every chance she gets.
In short, she said, business ought to adopt the same can-do spirit.
"The answer is yes! Now what’s the question?" said Emmett.
Perhaps as important as knowing what to do is sensing whom you are
dealing with, such as "crazy makers," or disgruntled folks. Companies
need to be aware of the importance of having a skillful receptionist,
who is often the first and only contact someone will have with a
Sometimes, those who are most upset can become a company’s biggest
boosters, she said.
Noting that consumer expectations are not necessarily very high, Emmett
said placing cartoons or quotations on a waiting room wall can make a
"It doesn’t take a lot to make customers happy," she said.
Emmett was a crowed-pleaser in her own right, as a number of audience
members said they wished Emmett had more time to speak, according to
Joyce Lueth, a member of SEBA’s board of directors.
"Everybody seemed to enjoy what she had to say," Lueth said. "She was
full of information."
Rita Emmett presents talks and seminars on a variety of
subjects to associations, organizations, and conferences.