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No Mind Melding Here: Don't Assume Your Customers Know What You Know

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Only you know how your organization's systems work. Only you know if your systems are typical for your industry or specialty area. Not every customer does. If you'd like fewer complaints and to maintain positive relations with your customers, enlighten them!

Educating customers about issues that can affect their perceptions of your customer service can greatly affect customer acquisition and retention. This is especially true with products or services that require some "insider" information to understand the full picture.

I just experienced this myself when purchasing a 2010 car for my daughter. Going to car dealerships right from the get-go is an apprehension many of us harbor. Maybe it's unfair, but decades of slick, pushy sales techniques have contributed to this reputation.

Without recounting the entire tale, let's just say that the deal would have fallen through had I not intervened between sales manager and hubby. And the outcome would have been a very negative brand experience on our family's part. And why? Because the manager didn't enlighten us regarding what is typical in our state or what to expect.

Unlike other places, a "new" car here is considered new until it has been titled, so it can frequently have mileage on it. In our case, about 210 miles. That's what concerned hubby. His first instinct was that the dealer was trying to pull a fast one and sell us a used car. If he wasn't forthcoming on this information, how could we trust the rest of what he told us? If the vehicle was used as a loaner to other customers or taken for test drives, which it was, then it seemed logical that it wasn't a new car.

In addition, it is typical for some car dealers here to delay updating the manufacturer's database with their sold inventory until the end of the month, even though salespeople are supposed to do this daily. It has something to do with competition between the dealers. Now, is this customer-oriented? No, of course not, especially if the salesperson is searching the computer system to locate the car you want from a competing dealership. Our perspective: How come the computer shows all this inventory and yet it's taking two days to find a car with her specs? Sounds suspicious, doesn't it?

Both these pieces of information were news for us. A lot of angst and suspicion could have been avoided had the salesperson advised us of these norms in advance---not after customer frustration. He could have said, "Just so you know, it's very typical here for new cars to have a few miles on them. This is a widespread practice in our state."

So, think of any pertinent information you can share with your customers and prospects that may affect their perceptions of your customer service and build trust with your brand. This doesn't mean you should burden them with your organization's internal issues and challenges. But if there are common practices or standards that you know, don't assume your customers will know them, too.

Can you give a good example of this type of situation BEFORE and AFTER you enlightened your customers about something? Did it work?


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A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

Solutions Marketing & Consulting: solutionsmc.net

Speaking: elainefogel.com

Elaine's Blog: http://elainefogel.net

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  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Feb 24, 2011 via blog

    OK, so I forgot to ask a question at the end of my post. :( No wonder, there are no comments!

    Can you give a good example of this type of situation BEFORE and AFTER you enlightened your customers about something? Did it work?

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Thu Feb 24, 2011 via blog

    Elaine,

    I added your question to the end of the post!

    Your friendly neighborhood editor,
    Veronica

  • by Daniel Thu Feb 24, 2011 via blog

    Great article Elaine - I think lack of understanding extends well beyond the business arena, wars probably could've been prevented with better communication and disclosure!

    Sticking to the business context though - my clients are often confused with why certain items cost a certain amount, particularly in regard to web design - once I go through the step by step of what goes into it though they're usually more than happy with the value they're getting!

    It's just a matter of controlling perceptions - if you don't let the client know what's going on then they're left to draw their own conclusions, and if you don't have an established relationships your lack of communication will generally cause them to have a negative perception.

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Feb 24, 2011 via blog

    So true, Daniel. A lot of people assume that certain services can be done in a flash, and nothing is farther from the truth. This is especially the case with anything creative. I like the fact that you explain the process in advance so they have a thorough understanding of it.

    Thanks for taking the time to share.

  • by Chief Alchemist Fri Feb 25, 2011 via blog

    In short, it's not just about communication. Communication is a means. What is also necessary for effective communication is empathy, as well as an awareness that there are always expectations to be managed. A generous application of The Golden Rule can go a long way, both at work and at home.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Feb 25, 2011 via blog

    Hear, hear! Thanks for adding your two cents.

  • by libby Fri Mar 4, 2011 via blog

    This is the same concept as the Heath Brothers "curse of knowledge" from Made to Stick. I have found professionally that the more "complicated" the field the more likely they are to NOT be able to overcome the curse of knowledge. Architects are a great example. They speak architect to their client--who are not architects--and it creates distance which results in "I don't want to do business with these people" attitude.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Mar 7, 2011 via blog

    So true, Libby. Having a condescending approach or being didactic can be the kiss of death. Getting away from jargon and explaining what a client needs to know - in lay terms- will win hearts. Thanks for weighing in!

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