Critical non-essentials in business

Critical non-essentials is not a contradictory term.

Critical non-essentials is not a contradictory term.

In business, the term refers to those little things — not necessary, but extremely important ways you operate your business. Even though they have very little to do with your products or services, critical non-essentials — CNEs — have everything to do with the customer’s experience.

Statistics state that 80 per cent of clients do repeat business with a company because of the relationships they’ve developed with that business. Another way of interpreting this is that 80 per cent is emotion-based versus 20 per cent logic.

Consider the following scenario.

The plain brick building doesn’t have any signage and the front door is locked. You have to ring a bell and a care nurse greets you by name. You are then shown to your personal lounge with your name inserted on the door.

The room is decorated with tasteful artwork and fresh flowers. Ice water with a sprig of mint is waiting for you. And when it comes time to leave, you’ll never leave empty handed; you’ll receive a bouquet of flowers, or some other special gift.

This is the practice of Australian dentist, Paddi Lund.

Paddi is an author of several business books including, Critical Non-Essentials. He’s known as the “business guru” that redefined his practice by putting conventional business systems aside and then creating unique and simple experiences for his staff and clients.

Prior to adopting these changes, he could easily identify key issues that were causing problems.

Teams infighting and open conflicts were eroding productivity. Customers began to loose faith in Paddi’s expertise, which prevented them from making care-based decisions quickly and easily.

He was having trouble attracting new clients and this was affecting his cash flow. Plus, the ballooning accounts receivables were giving him ulcers.

Customer service was poor and that perceived indifference was reflected in customer loyalty.

Paddi’s BFO — blinding flash of the obvious — was that no one was happy, especially him.

He developed and implemented changes that reflected a “happiness-centred” business that is fun, enjoyable and profitable. His staff is happy, as they had a major hand in developing the changes. There is a certain status about being his client and all new business is referred.

Let’s look at another, more simplified, example of the implementation of CNEs in a local heavy duty mechanical and fabrication shop.

When you pull up to the entrance, the lot is litter-free, the grass cut and equipment parked in a line. You’re always greeted by name upon entering the office. The reception area is neat and comfortable.

The vision, mission and culture statements, plus mechanics certificates, are visible. There are signs on the offices that have both a name and position.

The shop is clean and organized. All vehicles have their cab cleaned before being released to the client.

What impression do you think this makes on clients: clean, organized and professional?

Although taking an initial hit when the economic downturn hit, this business has survived and thrived month by month, even though the oilpatch business dropped a year ago.

So, how will CNE’s help your business?

Simple, respectful and friendly systems influence the customer’s perception of competence and quality. Customers judge your expertise in areas they don’t understand by things they do understand.

If you identify those things that customers remember about your business, it’s likely that it’s the personal “people” experiences that make them return. It’s rarely associated with the core part of what you do.

CNEs differentiate your business and therefore should be part of your USP (unique selling proposition).

CNEs improve the work environment, resulting in happier staff; this translates into increased client retention, resulting in more return business.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at or by phone at 403-340-0880.