Published Monday, June 27, 2011 | 10 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | 11:20 a.m.
I bought a 4 GB flash drive not too long ago. It was a pretty good buy at only $9.99. The drive worked well until a few days ago when I found that I couldn’t get files to delete. Actually, it appeared as if there were no files on the drive, but the drive’s capacity was limited to only 1 GB. It was late at night and I had a 2.4 GB file I wanted to transfer between computers. The smart technology guys I know were not available, so I took it upon myself to solve the problem.
I went to the flash drive manufacturer’s website. The opening page had a link to a page where one could chat directly with a computer tech. “This is going to be easy,” I thought to myself. I waited after posting my question, expecting to see the answer come across my screen, when a page popped up introducing me to Jason, a tech from Omaha, Nebraska. Jason has been a computer tech for four years since earning his AA degree in computer technology. I found it interesting that I was given information regarding the computer tech, which personalized the experience.
Then another screen popped up, asking me the infamous question, “how much would you pay to have your question answered?” The question came complete with a pulldown menu and a suggested price of $18.00. Jason apparently believed that his information was pretty valuable, but that was not the case for me. I could buy two new flash drives for that amount. This experience really bothered me — I don’t believe that I should have to pay to use a product that I already purchased, with an expectation that it would work.
Seizing the opportunity for a blog topic, I began to think about the concept, “how much would you pay?”
Customers will pay for value. No disrespect to Jason, but the service he was offering me was just not valuable enough for me to purchase. If I had a file that I absolutely needed to restore or find, it could have been a different story. Every company must connect with its customers around what is valuable to the customers, not what the company finds valuable. If you have a service that you believe to be valuable, but your customer does not, you either need to rethink who your customer base is or you need to find a way to make that service valuable to the customer.
I attended a conference many years ago entitled CRAVE. The intent of the conference was to explore what types of services and quality levels would make a customer crave working with a firm. It was easy to see which companies had developed this type of following and which ones did not. All of the “craveable” companies had connected with their customers on many levels. They all had developed a reputation for unequalled quality, delivered excellent customer service, knew how their customers defined value, and had developed a unique and thoughtful experience through their work.
The key to delivering value to clients is to clearly understand how each client defines value and to find the way to communicate your value to them. For instance, Jason should have asked me how important it was for me to have my flash drive working immediately. Based on my response, he could have decided the appropriate pricing or whether this question should be answered for free. Since Jason’s answer to my question had limited value to me, he could have looked at it as an opportunity to sell me on his service and provide contact information so that when I ran into another problem, I would think of contacting him first.
Customers have expectations. All customers have expectations when they interact with a company, but most of the time, companies do not clearly understand those expectations. For example, when I began my search to answer the question regarding the flash drive, my expectation was that there would be a FAQ answer posted on the company’s website that would be easy to find (and free). When I was first offered the ability to ask a computer tech, my expectation was heightened, not lowered. I expected that I would get a customized answer, but that it would be free. Companies need to place themselves in their customer’s place to really understand these expectations. Being able to best understand their client’s expectations places a company in a great position to meet or exceed these expectations.
Every time you interact with a customer is a great opportunity to learn. Take advantage of each opportunity.
Until next time…