Whether you want someone to sign on the digital dotted line with their finger or you’re selling smart home products that can make your HVAC, plumbing or electrical customer’s life easier, you may run up against a common wall: consumers don’t always understand how high-tech solutions work, and that scares them. Or, the availability of so much knowledge online has consumers believing they do understand these products, making it harder for you to communicate the realities to them.
When it’s time to talk technology with your customer base, education is critical, says Chris Stasik, who has sold and installed smart home and audio solutions in hundreds of homes. He gives a four-step approach that service companies and their employees can use to meet customers where they are and hold meaningful conversations about technology solutions.
Encourage Face-to-Face Communication
Millennials may have an aversion to phone calls, and customers of all ages are finding chat and text support are convenient, but digital communication doesn’t always make the grade when you’re trying to explain a complex solution or concept.
Stasik says it’s especially important for service companies trying to land a big sale to reduce the amount of communication through email and text, where opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication are rife. “When possible, schedule an appointment wherever the customer seems comfortable — in their home, in your workplace. . . even over a burger at a local restaurant,” he says.
A customer that’s comfortable with their surroundings is more likely to venture into a discussion of technology they aren’t as comfortable with.
At the same time, service companies can’t ignore digital communication demands. Prep your staff with definitions, answers and scripts so they can quickly respond to questions about your products and any technology you use in your business via email, chat or text support options.
Find Out What the Customer Knows
The sheer number of options and available technology means you’ll deal with customers who are at all places on the tech knowledge ladder. Your field tech might help a customer who refuses to sign a work order digitally because they don’t understand the device and then move on immediately to a customer who works in engineering and is more aware of the available smart home solutions than you are.
Stasik says understanding where your customer stands is critical to communicating about technology appropriately. “Come up with a formatted but pleasant conversational way to find out what customers know, think they know and don’t know,” he says.
Teaching your staff to ferret out this information in a friendly, productive manner saves everyone time and frustration. “I’ve talked to someone for an hour, and everything they say to me sounds like they know exactly what they need or want,” says Stasik. “Then one comment, expression or experience in the conversation makes me realize they had no idea what they thought they were talking about the whole time.”
Work with your staff to develop some open-ended questions that help them understand:
- Whether they are on the same page as the customer with regard to wants and needs
- How much the customer understands about the solution or technology
- What they might need to explain to the customer before the next action can occur
Be Prepared To Combat the Internet and Confirmation Bias
The internet is filled with information, and unfortunately a lot of it is inaccurate or just outright wrong. And since around 88 percent of consumers research online before making a purchase, you’re going to deal with a lot of consumers who have preconceived notions about what products can and can’t do, how secure solutions are and what they need to meet their preferences.
While there’s nothing wrong with an educated customer, that prior internet research can lead to some frustrating confirmation bias. It can be as simple as a customer that won’t make a credit card payment to a field tech with a mobile device because they’ve read about identity theft and hacking and don’t understand that wireless POS systems are as safe as the ones they use in the store. It can be as complex as a customer who has already sketched out a design for a smart home system that includes HVAC and plumbing elements that don’t fit in their actual space or budget.
To combat these potential communication barriers, arm your employees with manufacturer’s marketing materials with correct information about all products and training on how to explain how solutions work. In some cases, such as when a customer doesn’t want to make a digital payment, empower employees to offer other solutions, such as accepting a check. While it’s important to learn to communicate about technology, you can’t force customers to accept all of it.
Explain Things Accurately and in a Friendly, Appropriate Way
Learn enough about your customer that you can relate your technology to their world to make it more understandable. Avoid talking over the customer’s head — using industry terms and words they are unlikely to understand unless you explain them — but don’t talk under the customer either.
In the end, bridging the technology communication gap is less about following a rote formula and more about learning to understand your clients and adapt your language and approach to their needs. You never change the meat of the message, but you may cook it in different ways to make it palatable for the audience at hand.
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