I have been a loyal customer of a few businesses over the years, and it is not because they charge less for their products or services, or because they do a better job than the competition. It is because they make me smarter. I contacted one recently, a heating contractor, about a furnace in one of my properties. The property is over twenty years old, and any furnace that is over two decades old is on its last legs. How do I know this? Because I Googled it. When I searched the internet, the first page stated an average of 16-20 years. And, like 92% of users of the internet, I didn’t look past the first page. Why bother? Everyone knows that the top of the first page is the most accurate. Except it is not. In fact, even the most trusted sources of information on the internet can be highly flawed. And the average user does not often know the difference. That is where you and your staff come in.
Research has shown that customers remain loyal to companies that are considered a trusted source of information. Researchers have confirmed that being considered an expert in your field within your marketplace is one of the best tools of marketing. But the key word is known. The customer doesn’t really care how much you know, they care about how much your knowledge can serve them. You cannot keep your knowledge to yourself.
Take the furnace company I referenced earlier. When I called about my elderly furnace, they could have just set up an appointment to sell me a new one, but I would have eventually discovered their trickery. Not only would they have lost me as a customer, but they would have lost everyone I could reach on social media and beyond (I have been known to hire a skywriter to voice my displeasure). Instead, the rep said, “I know the internet says your furnace might die, but I have seen furnaces that were 25 years old and still cooking. No need to panic. I have you in the system, so when the unit does go out, we can get you a new one in no time.” My trust in the company grew because, not only did they help me avoid spending money, but they gave me information which made me a smarter customer. Now, there is no way I will go to any other company.
I spoke to another company about a new oven my wife and I just bought (yeah, it’s been a year of failing appliances). When I spoke to the rep, I told her that the temperature in the oven was uneven. It would start out higher than the thermostat setting, and then drop lower. She was a pleasant rep, but she made two errors. First, she said I needed to leave the thermometer in the oven for about 30 minutes because it can take a while for the read to be correct. Second, should the temperature still be off, she kindly offered to e-mail me instructions on how to recalibrate the temperature settings.
After more research, I discovered that all ovens, even new ones, fluctuate during the first half hour of heating because they are adjusting to heating elements turning on and off. After 30 minutes, the temperature in the oven evens out. Had she told me that, she would have had a much calmer customer, and one that would trust her more in the future. She gave me one bit of information, but didn’t fully educate me on the issue.
The second error came when she offered to e-mail me instructions on recalibrating the oven. I said, “No thanks. I am sure there is a YouTube video that shows how to do it.” She agreed, and that was that. She should have said, “You are probably right, but let me send you the e-mail anyway. You never know if the information you are getting is correct, and I want to save you the time of searching for it.” The truth is, my YouTube search turned up no results.
In every contact, make sure that your company is the source of information for your customer. Information makes for a happy customer, and a loyal one.
Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management. He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.