ACHRNEWS

Marketing Magic: Too Much Information Can Cost You

December 27, 2010
Adams Hudson

Like many of you, I get thousands of channels on television. There’s the Game Show Network featuring long-cancelled shows with no-name people winning forgettable items after answering obscure questions. This is thrilling compared to the NASA TV channel, which started because someone put a camera on the corner of a desk, turned it on, and walked away - in 1988. No one at NASA has any idea there’s a 24-hour channel featuring a co-worker’s right elbow.

Yet in terms of sheer grossness, nothing compares to Discovery Health. Even when I try to sneak by it on the way to something interesting like “Overhaulin” or “American Chopper,” I catch a glimpse of a liver on a stainless plate or some other pulsating, wet item that looks like android sinus material. We pay doctors so we won’t have to look at this stuff. In fact, I’m suggesting that three or four doctors save up a day’s pay and buy this network. Please.  Especially now that this happened.

Warning: The following may not be suitable for anyone with a stomach. I’m positive it’s not PC either, so just get ready.

While assembling some chairs for my wife, I scanned to see what was on, mostly for the background noise. On Discovery Health, the real name of the show was: “The World’s Fattest Man” (WFM). So far, so good.

I thought I might recognize him from a recent Burger King visit, but this guy was from Maine. Or perhaps he was Maine. They showed him in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, presumably to see why he’d eaten a piano. He was calmly talking to the attendants as the ambulance came to stop, and the doors swung open.

The attendants put the WFM on an industrial-looking gurney and began to wheel him away, initially making faces like trying to unstick a loaded service van from the sand. They got him moving, and with a sheet covering his considerable personhood, they went into an observation room.

I began wondering, “What are they going to do with the WFM?” And, “What was he like as a baby? Was he also WFB?” I was mildly entranced, just as sponsors would hope. That is, until this very shocking, not-suitable-for-children-or-anyone-with-a-gag-response thing happened.

Without warning, the next scene showed a dozen volunteers turning him over, and then there was WFM nudity all over the place. At first I couldn’t tell what happened since the TV screen was filled with acres of flesh and dimpled regions. Yet as the camera backed up, perhaps into the next time zone, you could identify certain items. I may have blacked out.

All I could sense was shock and awe. I scrambled for the remote, longing for the Game Show Network. I have sworn off Vienna sausage for the rest of my life.

Moments before, I had felt some compassion and interest. Yet that all fled in an instant due to too much information.

TOO MUCH IS TOO MUCH

Marketers do it. Salespeople do it. Customer service reps do it. We give way too much information, too quickly, sometimes with the opposite, repelling result. And though not as horrifying as the WFM episode, it is a business killer.

My friend and customer service expert Steve Coscia calls it “editorializing.” Zig Ziglar calls it “Selling past the close.” Customers call it boring, pointless, wasteful, and it is costing you dearly.

Below are three recent examples of when this happened to me:

1. I recently bought a small flat-panel television. In the salesperson’s zeal to sell me the heavily commissionable service plan, he mentioned enough things that could go wrong with the set I’d just chosen that I opted for a less-featured (and less expensive) TV, sans service plan. He talked me right out of my initial purchase by attempting to sell me more.

2. I called a septic tank company for service work on rural property. The CSR began to espouse how busy they were, and how she didn’t know when they could get out there, she’d have to check, she’s the only one there, blah, blah. You’ve all heard that before. I politely interrupted, I told her I was sorry for the inconvenience, and I called another company. I ended up spending $480 with company B and got on their maintenance agreement.

3. An HVAC repairman showed up on a recent Sunday for a no-heat call. I was glad he did, but for the first five minutes of his visit, he was compelled to rail on his company about the ‘trip charge,’ and how he felt it was ‘wrong.’ Basically, he was telling me “I don’t trust the company I work for.” That’s not a good message.

Owners rarely know this is going on. They just know “calls are down” or “conversions are down” or “transactions have gone down.” In many cases, the calls came but won’t ever come back. Maybe the sale was almost made, but got “unmade.”

SURVEY RESULTS

In a survey of 2,000 paying customers who quit using their service provider, 49 percent cited poor customer service as the reason for changing companies.

Of the above 49 percent, the specific complaints were:

51% - Poor nontechnical service. Communication was lacking; no relationship. Company contact seemed to ramble.

26% - Decided to “check around.” Customer admitted being “ready to buy,” but confidence was lowered after speaking with company rep. Another communication disconnect.

12% - Service representative’s “lack of knowledge” and/or “inability to describe service.” Customer felt they were being “talked down to.”

9% - “Company policies” that create bureaucracy/delay/inconvenience. (Why should the company policy be the customers’ problem?) Customers do not like the word “policy,” and it is rarely meaningful to them.  Often a CSR says what they “can’t do” instead of what they “can do.”

So, the survey shows that customers want good information from trained personnel. They don’t like or don’t trust winging it or overtalking.

Often in desperate times, salespeople seem desperate and begin overselling. You cannot afford this. It is probably costing you now.

Go over meaningful information and scripted answers for (a) reasons to buy, and (b) sales objections. Yes, I’m a fan of scripted knowledge that is relayed authentically to customers. Doing this prepares your techs, CSRs, and salespeople to not oversell, stumble, or lose the customer’s confidence.

You - as company leader - are in control of the knowledge flow. Make sure your team knows the direction and goal for all calls and customer contact. By rehearsing and reviewing with your staff, you can make sure they never riskily “overexpose” themselves or the company.

In tough times, make the most of every lead by knowing the silent killers in your business. And if you’re ever channel surfing past Discovery Health, I’d close one eye first.

Publication date: 12/27/2010