American country music artist Toby Keith’s hit song “I Want to talk about me” reminds me of a phenomenon in today’s services world — too many providers’ conversations with customers are unproductive.
Service providers are very eager to grow their revenue in their existing accounts. As the market matures, this is clearly the fastest, less costly way to grow. Customers often ask their providers to demonstrate that they can bring innovation. The problem is the provider comes back with products. That approach doesn’t align with the customer’s expectations. Clients think: “Let’s talk about me and my issues, not you and your products. Help me with my issues.”
As anyone in a marriage knows, you have to listen to the spouse’s whole day to understand what the issues are. Clients typically are not able or willing to succinctly articulate their needs. They will talk to providers about what they’re struggling with and what’s going on in their business. Out of that knowledge come issues they’re working on or potential issues they want to work on.
It’s rare that customers will have thought something through to the extent that they will say: “I want to do this” or “here’s how I want to do that.” A clear articulation of the customer’s needs and issues is particularly rare for the empowered, senior individuals.
Service providers need to engage their customers in broad discussions and at multiple levels (junior, mid-level management and senior management). And out of those discussions comes a picture of the issues and needs that they are working on or need to work on. Then the provider can talk to the client about those issues.
That talk-about-me conversation will be productive and may lead to work. And the client will feel satisfied that the provider did not “sell” something to them but, rather, helped them on their agenda.
Photo credit: Marc Wathieu