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PEAK Performance for the Technical Professional - Part Four

July 9, 2007
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Jim Johnson

In Part Three of our series, we presented the idea that some technicians might be resistant to selling because of their beliefs about salespeople. And, now, we’re ready to move on and discuss some of the things that technicians need to understand about customers and what they want from a technical professional or any business they buy from.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to list the five things that are most important to a customer, and I’m going to list them in their order of importance. Here they are:

1. Full disclosure.

Yes, that’s right … full disclosure. The number one thing a customer wants from any company that they buy a product or service from is full disclosure. A customer wants to have all the information they need to make an intelligent buying decision, and being blind-sided after making a decision is the one thing they like the least about dealing with a company.

Now, I want to pause here for a moment to mention that, sometimes, when we begin this list in our workshops, we get some strange looks.

Somebody might even say, “Whoa there, that can’t be right. That’s not the number one thing on a person’s mind when they’re buying something.”

Or they might say, “Well, that might be true in your business, or it might be true where you come from, but you don’t know how people are in my area. They’re only interested in one thing.”

And everybody in the workshop knows what they are talking about. And you know what I’m talking about, but I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them in the workshop. Full disclosure is the number one thing a customer wants from a company, and we’ll talk about that other issue when it comes up on the list.

Then we go on to the next thing that’s most important to a customer.

2. Quality.

After the concern about full disclosure is taken care of, this is the next thing on the customer’s list of importance.

(Don’t worry, we’ll get to that other issue when the time comes. I want to talk about quality first.)

When a customer calls a technical professional to come to their home or business to repair something or perform necessary maintenance, or when they bring something in to be repaired or serviced, the issue of quality is on their mind. The bottom line for a customer is that they don’t want to have to deal with going through the same thing twice. When it’s done, they want it done right. And that’s why quality shows up as number two on a customer’s list of importance.

3. Fair price.

There, I finally said it - price. But, as you noticed, I didn’t say “lowest price” I said “fair price.”

Many people are under the mistaken impression that the customer’s number one concern is price. And, when we bring this up in our workshops, we, as I said earlier, get some disagreement about what I just said, so let me clarify my point.

What I just said was that many professionals operate under the mistaken impression that the lowest price is the number one thing on a customer’s list of things they want from a company.

There are a couple of important points I want to make regarding this subject.

First, I’m aware that often the first question a customer asks when calling for service is about price. I know that all service organizations get phone calls from people who ask, “How much is it for a service call?” or “What is your minimum charge?” or “How much do you charge for diagnosis?” Sometimes it’s a customer who’s asking this question, and sometimes it’s a shopper.

What’s the difference between a customer and a shopper? It’s simple. A customer shops for value and a shopper shops for price.

If you’re dealing with a shopper, it’s a good bet you won’t be the one who gets the work unless you’re the lowest price in town. However, if it’s a customer who’s making the inquiry about price, then you don’t have to have the lowest price in town, you just have to be the organization that offers the best value for the customer’s money spent.

So, let me say it again. Often, businesses are under the mistaken impression that the customer’s number one thing is the lowest price. In the case of a shopper, that may be true, but in the case of a customer, it’s not so. So, with that said, let me ask you a question. As a technical professional, is it your job to do work for shoppers or to take care of customers?

Personally, I think service organizations that operate at lowball prices and shoppers belong together. The organization that advertises that impossibly low-priced service call or free diagnostic fee will always be competing with other organizations who do the same thing, and shoppers will always be investing an inordinate amount of time and energy shopping around for the lowest price. A quality service organization doesn’t compete on price and spend a great deal of time rolling over lots of dollars, only to find at the end of the month that they didn’t earn a nickel in profit. A quality service organization understands the difference between a shopper and a customer, and operates to provide service to customers, not to attract shoppers by dropping their price a dollar every time they notice one of their competitors has come up with a lower price.

“But, Jim,” you might be thinking, “you still don’t get it. If a price is too high, it’s just too high.”

But I do get it. And I also know that there are times that a customer will say, “That’s too much.”

And when a customer says those words, they’re actually saying one of two things, which are either:

A. I don’t have that much money.

or …

B. You haven’t proven to me that what you’re offering is worth the money you’re asking for.

Now, if a customer is saying “I don’t have that much money” then they don’t, and there’s nothing you can do about that. But, when a customer is actually saying “You haven’t proven to me that what you’re offering is worth the money you’re asking for” that means your job is to explain what you offer and why it’s worth the price you’re asking for it.

We can see this idea in action every day when customers buy whatever they need and want. If price were the only consideration that customers focused on, then the entire population would be driving around in whatever car is the cheapest one to be found and wearing nothing but the cheapest clothes on the rack. And we all know that when we’re out in the public, we see cars in many different price ranges and we can find people wearing designer jeans that aren’t anywhere near the lowest priced clothing items available.

And, now, let’s move on to the number four item on the customer’s list.

4. Honest business practices.

At first blush, this might seem too simple and obvious, but let me explain what I mean by this one. To be sure, any customer expects to be treated honestly when they’re contracting for the services of a technical professional. But the concept of honest business practices goes beyond the customers themselves. To a customer, it means that it’s important that they know you’ll not only be honest with them, but with all of your customers.

Why is this important to them? Because people want to be sure that if they recommend and refer your company to somebody else, they’ll be well taken care of. And people are eager to refer others to you if they are satisfied with the services you’ve provided for them.

And, now let’s move on the number five item on a customer’s list.

5. Environmentally responsible business practices.

The customer of today is just as concerned for future generations as they are for themselves, and that’s why this item is on their list. Do you work with chemicals, hazardous waste, or other materials that have to be recycled or controlled in some way? If so, this is an opportunity for you to make sure your customer understands that your company is environmentally responsible.

So, to review, here are the five things customers want from any business, listed in their order of importance.

1. Full disclosure.

2. Quality.

3. Fair price.

4. Honest business practices.

5. Environmentally responsible business practices.

The information I’ve just presented can be credited to two authors by the name of Clancy and Shuman. In their book Marketing Revolution, they explained that after exhaustive surveys, it was determined that the five things I’ve mentioned are the things that customers want most from any company they do business with, and they were also able to determine something else.

And that something else is that 94 percent of what is sold is bought by somebody who intended to buy it in the first place.

That might sound a bit strange at first when you consider things like telemarketing organizations and infomercials that seem to promote impulse buying. But, the idea makes sense when you give it some thought. Sure, a person may wind up buying something when a telephone salesperson calls, or they may respond by dialing the 800 number and ordering an item. But the reason they do so is because they happened to either find a specific item they needed, or found some specific item that takes care of a need or desire that they have.

All of which means to me that part of a technical professional’s responsibility in providing outstanding customer service is to let the customer know what other services or products are available to them. If they find something they need or want, then they haven’t had their arm twisted to purchase something, they’ve made an informed buying decision about something they intended, for whatever reason, to buy in the first place. And, once a technical professional accepts this simple, straightforward philosophy on customer service, their next step is to understand some of the fundamental things about communicating effectively with customers. That’s the topic of discussion in our next segment.

Note: The information for this article series is excerpted from Jim Johnson’s “PEAK Performance for the Technical Professional,” an audio learning program designed to help technicians develop their sales and communication skills. The three CD set can be ordered from: Technical Training Associates, HC 70 Box 3172, Sahuarita, AZ 85629 for $39.95 (shipping and handling included). Mail check or money order, or send Visa or MasterCard information to the above address. Credit card orders may also be faxed to 520-648-3334. For more information, visit www.technicaltrainingassoc.com.

Copyright © 2007, Technical Training Associates

Publication date: 07/09/2007

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