Seth Godin has 2 wonderful posts: part 1 here and part 2 here about the new, what he refers to as, "The Blended Times." From Seth:
Welcome to the blended times. The moment when the big and small, the impermanent and the permanent, the accepted and the âscammyâ meet. For a while, itâs going to be awfully confusing. Weâll get ripped off, waste time, become even more skeptical than ever before.
It's inevitable isn't it? Yes, it's going to be hard (sometimes) to distinguish the flash-in-the-pan from the permanent. Are we going to get nailed and ripped off? Yes, Seth is very correct. Remember that "ripped off" can refer not only to the loss of cash, but the loss of anything. How much is your time worth? I get pissed when customer service agents rip off 2 hours of my time for no good reason.
So, when all the cues are gone, the way we make decisions about who to work with, what to buy and who to believe and trust comes down to this: it's in the interactions.
As it is and has always been: Business is people interacting with people. Sure, corporations are legal entities, but you don't do business with the corporation itself; the interactions you have on a daily basis with a corporation are really interactions between you and another person that represents that corporation. Corporate structures are great from a tax and legal liability standpoint; many times single proprietorships can beat corporations because of the quality of the owner-representative interaction.
It's not the surface flash . . . the brand of car, the cut of the suit or the seat at the table. It's in how we follow through. It's in the actions we take and the way we listen. It's in keeping our promises and doing exactly what we say we're going to do.
I wore a suit and an earring in my ear to my first interview for a consulting firm -- that earring almost ensured that I didn't get the job until the partner realized that he was selling products to people that looked a lot like me. Do first impressions still matter? In certain things, you bet! I guarantee you will get more value if you try to trade in a car that has been detailed vs. a car covered in road grime at a dealership. However, when I am talking to a customer service person on the phone that's representing a company, I may assume that they are required to spout off whatever their company tells them -- name, rank, serial number -- it is how they interact with me after that point that determines the end result of the experience. Read this post about my 3 hour experience in the Apple Store to find out what I'm talking about.
Our prospects, though, are scared. They can't afford to spend time or money with every single person that walks in. So the challenge is to be cheap and easy. If it's cheap and easy (or quick) to interact with you once, people are more likely to do it. If the first interaction goes well, you get a second shot. You build a relationship, not a sale.
Maybach calls their salespeople "Relationship Managers", what do you call your salespeople? Everything else being equal, why is it that people buy your widget over someone else's? It's the service and the interaction! Why was AT&T Wireless losing customers? Do a Google search on "ATT wireless + customer service" and find out that everyone on the web says that they have the worst customer service.
So what's the take-away message here? Where's the big nugget and lesson? Here you go, in Seth's words:
No, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Far more important today, though, is this: you don't get a third chance to make a second impression. And it's the second impression that builds your brand.
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