You know me, I don’t like to brag, but…
I just conquered one of the most difficult challenges known to mankind.
Peace in the Middle East? Harder.
Cure for cancer? Please, you are not thinking big enough.
No, my friend, what I did was successfully transition my family of five from one cell phone carrier to another. (Insert loud cheering noise here.)
Not only that, but despite the fact that we live in four different states across the country, by the time the dust had settled, we each had new phones in our hot little hands.
(I considered blindfolding myself throughout the switch just to add to the degree of difficulty, but I think that would have qualified as showing off.)
I began the process by calling T-Mobile, our new carrier.
The customer service rep was friendly and well-informed, but 30 seconds in, I was already lost. Too many moving parts; way too complicated.
So I thanked her, hung up the phone, and drove to a nearby T-Mobile store. That’s where I was waited on by Henry, a friendly young man with an enviable haircut.
First, he listened. Then he explained the various options and tradeoffs. After consultation with the rest of my family, I came back to the store the next day and said, “Let’s do it.”
As of 10 PM last night Denver time, my last child had made it to the other side.
It’s Not Really About What You Know
Working with Henry over the past 10 days made clear to me the difference between working with a company and working with a human being.
That’s an important distinction for those of us who are independents or small professional service firms. So much of our competitive advantage is who we are, not what we know.
Consider the Henry difference…
#1. He was accessible.
During my first visit to the store, it quickly became clear that I would need to go home, talk to the family, make some choices, and return.
So Henry gave me his work schedule for the coming week. This way, I wouldn’t waste time having to bring somebody new up to speed. There was continuity all along the way.
No call center, no matter how good, can match the feeling of working with the same person from start to finish throughout a complicated process.
#2. He was a master of simplification.
T-Mobile has dozens of phone options, service plans, and rebate offers. The first time I looked on the company web site, I didn’t even know where to begin.
But by asking a bunch of questions about how we used our phones, what was missing in our current plan, even where the kids lived, Henry quickly helped us to narrow the options.
This is what our clients want from us as well. Not a laundry list of every possibility. Not a bunch of impressive-sounding jargon.
Rather, much of the value we provide to clients is listening to what they want and then explaining what they need – or don’t need – in a way that they, as nonexperts in whatever it is we do, can understand.
#3. He made it turnkey.
The truth is, Henry did all the work. I just stood there responding to his requests for my driver’s license, credit card, kids’ mailing addresses, current phone serial numbers, etc.
I didn’t know what he was doing in the 45 minutes I stood there and I didn’t care. I knew the result I wanted and the price I was paying.
Compare this to my approach to selling newsletter services 20 years ago when I first got started….
I would tell prospective clients that while I do the marketing strategy and writing part, they need to find a designer and a tech person to take care of the rest.
Finally, after losing more business than I care to remember, it dawned on me that I need to hire the design and tech person and offer a one-stop solution. Today, I say one thing to future clients: “Don’t worry. I take care of everything, from start to finish.”
The fact is, offering all-inclusive, turnkey solutions to clients is one of the most compelling selling tools you have. The more complicated you make the offer and the process, the harder it is for people to get their head around it and move forward.
As Henry knows, all people want is the cake; they don’t care how you bake it.
Here’s the bottom line.
Everyone has a story (or ten) about their negative experience trying to deal with a big company. I had one just yesterday with my credit card provider.
But when it happens, and while I am always frustrated in the moment, I remind myself that the built-in bureaucracy and inefficiency that comes with size is our opportunity as small businesses to be way better.
The more you can make the experience of working with you personal, simple, easy, and pleasant, the more clients you will win and keep.
Give me a call on my new phone if you have any questions.
- Have you ever had an enviable haircut?
- What’s the best customer service experience you have had this year?
- How do you provide turnkey solutions to clients? (Extra credit if it involves a turkey.)
Share your answers below…
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1. What is this hair you speak of?
2. Local restaurant — Great service AND great food. We keep going back.
3. Slinking into retirement and no longer consulting, I still provide on-line training in my technical speciality. Brings in fun money and clients appreciate. To keep is simple:
— Fixed price, no per seat fees. Send who you want – it costs no more to teach extra students. (Size limited to 30 to facilitate questions/discussions)
— Class notes/handouts PDF and/or printed – will print/ship as needed
— Class times adjusted to client time zone – can get interesting if Europe or Asia
— Classes taught live (Zoom) by me — no subcontracting
— Easy payment — CC, PayPal, or Bank Transfer
— Simple two page quote to facilitate approvals
All of the above reduce friction, and make it easy to purchase. Works for me 🙂
Sounds like you’ve got a great system down, Daryl! (I have no firsthand hair information either.)
1. I had some miserable haircuts. My good fortune is to have…let’s call it “enviable” hair. Thick, wavy, and strawberry blonde. (Was there a phrase earlier about showing off?) My friends never let me whine about a bad haircut.
2. I’ve received a series of good customer service this summer, from Kaiser. I’ve had to reschedule several of my appointments over the last few months. When I call they just say, “OK, when would you like to come in?” There’s no guilt-making request for a reason or vocal inflection to imply that I’m inconveniencing the doctor. Thank you, Kaiser, for teaching kindness — and let’s-move-on-to-the-appointment-scheduling — to your customer service people!
3. I provide my customers with quality writing for their website and business documents. In that sense, yes, I offer a turnkey solution. But you’ve got me thinking now, Michael, that I should also be able to offer referrals to web designers who can tweak the code, and graphic designers who can create logos and ads.
Yes on #3. You can certainly offer referrals or … you could offer to create web sites as a complete package (if you wanted to) and hire the designer and tech yourself. People really like turnkey (which is why cruises and all-in-one vacation packages are so popular, for example).