It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? And what does an air conditioner have to do with anything?
Prime Your Customer
If you live in the northeastern U.S., you know how important a working heat source can be in the harshest days of winter. It can make the difference between life and death! Well, here in the desert, good air conditioning is just as important in warmer months.
Every fall, I get my a/c units checked out. It’s always the same company. Partly, this is because they have the best off-season rates. But partly, it’s because they have the best service!
The same guy – I’ll call him Joe – comes every year. From the very first visit, Joe primes me for a good experience. (Not that he needs to worry much!) Here’s how it goes:
- He calls when he’s about 10 minutes away and says “Hi, it’s Joe from XYZ Air. I’ll be there in about 10 minutes if that’s still good for you. Are you still working on your doctorate? That’s cool. Any problems with your a/c? Okay, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
- When he arrives, he rings the doorbell. As I’m opening the door, he’s putting disposable shoe covers over his completely clean work boots so he can come in and check the thermostats.
- He knows where they are but when he first steps in, he asks about my school progress. Then he briefly shows me the latest picture of his not-a-baby-anymore little girl.
- After he does that, he goes out to do the maintenance on the units in the backyard. Then, he knocks on the front door again, tells me what he found and did, and we do the business part.
So did you catch everything that happened there?
- First, there’s a courteous and personable phone call to confirm. In this call, he’s not just announcing his impending arrival but letting me know he remembers me as a customer by asking about something that’s obviously important to me. It’s priming me to expect a positive experience.
- The little hospital booties are a nice touch. Joe keeps his boots looking good anyway – lots of women pay attention to footwear! But this is another primer, and this one is priming me to expect both care and attention to detail when it comes to my stuff.
- Asking again about my progress? Another signal that he pays attention and values me as an individual customer. Showing me pics of his kid? Well, I like to think he’s just friendly like that, but it’s also a very thoughtful way to get customers thinking of him as a father and a family guy, not just some technician. It gives him an identity that makes the entire experience more personal.
Why go to the trouble?
About 79% of the U.S. economy revolves around service businesses, for starters. That, and the fact that I live in an area that could be mistaken for a suburb of hell, means there’s plenty of competition and providing better service is a smart way to stand out. But mainly…
Better Service is Insurance.
Joe isn’t just a service technician. That’s the obvious part of his job. He’s also a representative of his company, which means a less-obvious part of his job is to create a satisfied customer.
Priming customers for a positive experience is no guarantee of customer satisfaction, but you can think of it like insurance. If the priming is done well, then even if there’s a problem, you’re less likely to have an irate customer. And if the priming is done well, you have also – very subtly – set your expectations of customer behavior.
Some people are just naturally abrasive, maybe a little offensive or rude. Low-intensity behaviors like that can be contagious. It’s not something Joe wants to take to his next customer! On the other hand, trying to manage his own emotional response to that kind of behavior creates a lot of work stress! So priming helps prevent that, as well.
Your Second Job: Increase Customer Satisfaction & Reduce Stress
Your first job is doing whatever you do.
When you work directly with customers or clients, your second job is just like Joe’s: prime them for a positive experience (with less stress for you).
If you need some ideas on how to do that, based on your business, let me know – I’d be happy to brainstorm with you!