Providing best-in-class service can be incredibly challenging. Your clients spend a lot of money on technology with the rightful expectation that it will enrich and enhance their lives. It follows that when the tech fails, getting in the way of otherwise enjoyable life moments, the frustration can easily boil over. After all, the natural (but totally false) assumption by most clients is that once installed the tech will “just work” without incident. If this assumption is allowed to take root, then the first time a system failure occurs the client will think they’ve been sold a bill of goods. When the ensuing angry emails and phone calls roll in it’s a natural instinct to want to diffuse the situation with a quick apology. But, as we discussed in a previous article about effective response strategies, it’s actually much better if you don’t say sorry (most of the time). Let me explain…
As our industry has evolved, systems have become increasingly complex. At the same time our product margins continue in a steady state of decline. The net result is that while our total cost to serve has gone up, the hardware profits you’ve traditionally used to subsidize those service costs has begun to evaporate. Therefore now it’s more critical than ever that you begin to charge adequately for your service.
But charging a sustainable rate for your services is hard if your clients only perceive you as a box mover. This term, borrowed from the software industry, describes a technology reseller that doesn’t add any value for the customer, instead focusing solely on moving product off the shelves. And unfortunately, if you’re not careful, it’s how your clients might perceive you.
Instead it’s vital that, in the eyes of your clients, you are perceived for the real value that you add; deep knowledge and top-tier customer service. This perception of you as more akin to a ‘technology manager’ or ‘personal consultant’ will subtly, but surely, help your position in the battle to capture more billable hours. Finding ways to consistently reinforce the idea that you are an advocates for your clients, whose time is well worth paying for, is the key. And one of the best ways to do this to stop apologizing.
Saying sorry when the tech fails carries with it a subtle, but unmistakable implication that this is somehow your fault.Clearly if the support incident at hand is the result of an error your company made then an apology is in order. However, in most cases the incident was beyond your ability to prevent: A cable box locked up, a modem needed to be reset, or an Apple TV failed to make its HDMI handshake.
When these instances arise it’s vital that our clients see you as part of the solution, and not the problem. It’s likely that your client will somehow fault you for “selling them expensive stuff that doesn’t work”, or some similar iteration. The key point to enforce is that, short of living in a cave, the new world we live in means your client will experience technical failures of some sort, and it’s your job to help them when these issue occur.
While clearly it’s best to be empathetic, saying sorry instantly enforces the idea that you are to blame. Beyond being an outright unfair assessment, this message is also unlikely to leave your clients willing to pay for your service.
Instead we are much better off focusing on a message of helpfulness. Put yourself in the shoes of your client and compare the following statements…
“I’m so sorry your cable box isn’t working again”
“We see this often and are more than happy to help get it resolved for you”
How about one more example…
“I apologize that your not able to get a movie playing for your kids right now”
“HDMI can be really finicky, but I have a few quick things we can try that should help”
It should be instantly obvious that the later statements enforce the idea that you are an advocate for your clients. While the former, although much easier to utter in the heat of battle, send exactly the wrong message.
Conditioning your clients to pay for service, especially (and ideally) as part of an ongoing recurring monthly plan, requires that they truly understand the value you provide as a personal technology manager. For your clients to grasp this instinctively we need to ensure that they don’t perceive you as simply a high-end retailer. While moving boxes is clearly part of your business, it’s vital that your clients understand that it’s only a small part. Your true value-add lies in your ability to be a one-stop shop for all of their technology needs including, and especially, ongoing support. A simple, but absolutely vital step in enforcing this idea is to break the habit of apologizing to your clients every time an inevitable technology hiccup occurs.