If you need open heart surgery, would you rather have an expert perform the operation or a general doctor that sort-of knows what they are doing?
The answer is obvious, so why is it such a tough question in your business?
It’s my guess because most people are thinking short term costs instead of long term expenses. By this I am referring to the short term cost of hiring an expert vs the long term expense of what it will cost in the long run in problems by trying to save a few dollars.
I recently had a client who tried to manage his own mail server. Even though I only develop his website and have nothing to do with his email, I kept getting calls asking questions about his email server and configuration. I can only assume because he was lost and grabbing at the first person he could think of.
Over several months as he kept making changes in his business and internal network they continued to have problems. And I continued to get calls asking for help.
Eventually I recommended that he use the email company I use myself for my business. It’s a company that only does email as that is what they are experts in. I’ve been using them for almost 2 years with no problems and a dedicated team who understand email inside an out to help if I happen to have any problems.
This client finally took my advice and within a week I received another call saying how great everything is working from his outlook to web-based email and even his blackberry integration. As a result of using an expert for something which is not his core competency, he can now focus his efforts on what he is most competent at – running his business.
A website is another great example of using an expert. I have had several clients who tried to develop their own sites, some who even hired a single person for all aspects of their web presence. The problem is that they are getting back to using a generalist. Not too many individuals are experts at design, programming, databases, marketing, copy writing, and project management just to name a few of the specialists we utilize as an agency. If you are lucky enough to find someone willing to take on all these tasks, most likely they are not an expert in any of them.
I had a very interesting experience this week with my Chiropractor that I think applies to all business with respect to service. In my opinion the medical industry is notoriously bad at customer service and my recent experiences validate how important customer service is and why I will keep spending as much time as necessary with my customers.
About 5 years ago I changed to a different chiropractor due to location. This new practice was run much more like a traditional Dr’s office. Signed in with a receptionist then waited in the main lobby for a while. Finally my name was called and I was taken by an assistant to one of the small back rooms where more waiting was done. Then another assistant came in and asked about my problems, started a treatment then left. I waited alone in the room until it was done then continued to wait another 10 minutes until the Dr finally came in the room. I repeated the same story to him which I told his assistant and he briefly made some adjusted and I was on my way. The total time with the Dr was about 5 minutes.
After several visits of this I finally became annoyed and went back to my old chiropractor. The experience was much different. I walked in the office signed in and the Dr immediately came out and personally took me in the treatment room. He had me sit in a chair where we talked for 20 minutes. He spent the time to get to know me and about my problems in detail, what my activity level is like, what sports I play etc. Next he started the treatment and stayed in the room the entire time as we continued to talk. Last came the adjustments followed by some follow up instructions and then I was on my way. The total time with the Dr was exactly 1 hour.
After this visit, I could not think of anything but the extreme level of difference in customer service between the two practices. Of course, as a business owner, I do realize that the Dr who only spent 5 minutes with me probably sees many more patients per day and therefore may have a more profitable business. However, as a customer I will definitely make sure to drive out of my way in the future to see my original Dr who spent a full hour with me. In my mind there was no comparison between the two.
I have always tried to keep the same philosophy in my business. One way I do this is to never rush a conversation with the a client and also make sure the client does not feel pressured to hurry up and finish. To accomplish this we only charge for development time. Therefore, generally speaking when talking with a customer about their business or their needs this is not ‘time on the clock’. The money is made on the actual web development. The exception to this is the larger clients who need consulting where a significant amount of time (sometimes a week or more) is needed working directly with the customer.
The lesson I learned from this personal experience is to take extra care when talking to clients and make sure they feel I am genuinely interested in their web issues. If I can have my clients leaving a meeting with me and having the same thoughts I did when I left the chiropractor then I have definitely succeeded in the customer service area. Accomplish this and the profits will follow.