Closing the Gap Between Need Recognition and Service Delivery

What if there was a car that anticipated your needs and closed the gap between sensing a needed action and beginning the required reaction? Would you want to buy that car – or at least check it out? Infiniti has developed a car with a braking system that actually takes less time to stop when the brakes are applied because it begins closing the gap between the brake pads and rotors when it senses a need for braking.

What if you were so focused on customer needs that you could close the gap between recognizing a customer need and providing the service required to fulfill it? What if you positioned yourself as that type of service provider? Would your customers prefer to buy from you?

My cell phone recently stopped working. Despite everyone’s best efforts, my address book was lost. Sigh… I anticipated a lengthy amount of time recovering and entering it into the new phone.

Imagine my surprise and delight when the phone store representative, upon hearing that my husband’s phone contained some of the same information, took my husband’s phone and copied the information to my new phone. How much pain (loss of time is painful when you’re busy) did this alleviate for me? He recognized a need and filled it, quickly and accurately, with as little further action and frustration as possible for me.

This action was pretty insignificant for him, but it was monumental for me! It took him virtually no time to recognize and fill the need, but many representatives would have simply told me all the things I needed to do myself (requiring not only the time to do them, but also to learn how to do them), rather than just doing it themselves.

How can we apply this principle to our businesses and our customers by taking time to list as many scenarios as possible that our customers could experience, either with us or our products and services. Start with the most problem-prone scenarios.

Once the list is created, be proactive and list all the possible things that could go wrong…

… and then list what you can – and will – do when (not IF) they happen. Human beings are imperfect, nature is unpredictable, products are fallible. If we accept the reality that Murphy’s Law does exist:

Nothing is as easy as it looks

Everything takes longer than you expect

And if anything can go wrong, it will –

At the worst possible moment… and we care enough about our customers and their experiences with us to do something about it, we are well on our way to closing the gap between anticipating those events and easing the burden they place on our customers.

We must always be ready for the unexpected. But if we’re experts at what we do, we should never be blind-sided by the predictable – and neither should our customers.

So, for example:

  • If you know that closing costs often vary because they’re only estimates, prepare homebuyers for the possibility of having more money available to draw upon, if needed;
  • If you see a customer buying pattern, anticipate that need and pre-order materials or suggest setting them up on a regular ordering/delivery schedule, without incurring manual intervention or lost time;
  • If you’re aware of a changing situation in your insurance customer’s life, call and help them think through their insurance and investment options;
  • When regulations change, contact customers and offer help understanding them, rather than sending a generic 10-page letter to wade through to find the one paragraph they must understand.

And I would stand up and cheer if (even once!) a company enforced the mandated privacy policy by requiring no further action unless the customer wanted to share their information, rather than asking us to opt out of what they already know we don’t want them to do. (After all, if we wanted them to do it, there would be no need for a federal mandate.) Why not make it easy for us and assume we want to OPT OUT (be sure to let us know that they’re assuming this to be true), and ask us to take action only if we want to OPT IN?

The best thing we can do for our customers – and therefore our businesses – is to know and anticipate customer needs, refuse to allow “Oh, well, that’s too bad” attitudes and policies to unnecessarily burden customers, and close the gap between discovering a problem and fixing it.

Do this, and your customers will stand up and cheer for you… more importantly, they’ll take out their wallets and buy from you.

© Sandy Geroux  All rights reserved.


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