What Do Your Customers Really Want?

I want you to take a moment and think about the question in the headline: What do your customers really want? It’s okay, I’ll wait …

If you spent 30 seconds doing the above exercise, you’d likely have a list of customer “wants” specific to your business. Some of these “wants” could be service improvements (e.g. faster delivery or a new product line). You might have come up with a product enchantment (upsell), or you might have gone the cynical route and thought everyone wants everything for free. Regardless of the direction you chose, that is not what your customer really wants.

The late, great Zig Ziglar summed it up best, and although in this quote he was speaking to doctors, his words are universally applicable.

Here is the backstory: Zig had been getting a bloody nose for a few consecutive days, so his wife took him to see the doctor. Zig was in the exam room waiting for the doc and he could hear the doctor chatting with another patient. Zig said, “He was patient, kind, and gentle, and the tone of his voice made both of us realize he was a doctor interested in the care of his patients. He treated me with the same courtesy, carefully explaining the problem.”

Here’s the point you need to pay close attention to. Are you ready?

“He truly is an old-fashioned doctor practicing up-to-date medical care. Message: There are friendly people and caring doctors everywhere, and the best way to find them is to be a friendly, caring person who expects to find them wherever you go. Take that approach, and I will see you at the top!”

The first sentence of the above paragraph is gold and worth repeating: “He truly is an old-fashioned doctor practicing up-to-date medical care.”

This is what your customers are looking for. They are interested in finding someone who cares about them — a person they can trust — who has old-fashion values but who also uses up-to-date technology and science.

Just to be clear, they expect you to use up-to-date science and technology, but that is NOT the reason they continue to do business with you. Your customer doesn’t want impersonal, they crave a relationship. The desire to do business with people we know, like, and trust is natural; it is in our DNA, and it doesn’t matter if you are a Baby Boomer, Millennial, or any other generation.

I have the perfect real-life example I can share, and as luck would have it, it happens to be in the medical space, which sticks with Zig’s previous example.

Did you know there are nearly 13 dental offices in the United States for every one Starbucks? Crazy, right? We all say there is a Starbucks on every street corner, but in reality, dental offices are everywhere.

A few weeks ago, I got an ugly — but I happen to know, effective — postcard, that is currently sitting on my kitchen counter. This postcard is from a dental office that is offering a $1 exam, X-ray, and cleaning. Not a bad deal for the average, prospective patient. The timing of this postcard was also good, as I had an appointment coming up, and at this appointment, I was going to be getting my six-month exam, cleaning, and possibly my annual X-rays. I can assure you it was going to cost much more than one dollar. To add insult to injury, I was going to have to drive past the $1 dental office to get my own doctor. In fact, I would actually be passing at least 20 other dental offices driving to the north side of town where my dentist’s office is.

My decision to get in my car and drive past 20 other dental offices, including one I have a coupon for that will save me at least $100, just to see someone who will be providing the very same procedures, is crazy.

Spock from “Star Trek” would be disappointed in my logic, but if business was all about logic, everyone would be finding the closest, cheapest guy in town or on the Internet to do business with for any and all transactions. They’d all be going to a dental practice we have here in town called Half Dental (I assume it’s about half the price of other offices, although I never plan to find out since I personally am not interested in the low-cost leader for dentistry). But thankfully, for most people (including myself), logic isn’t the only factor to be considered when doing business.

I choose to drive past all these people and spend more money than I have to because I have a five-year relationship with my doctor. Over that time, my dentist has used a number of relationship-building techniques to gain my trust.

For instance, five years ago, he choreographed my first visit, making sure his staff stopped by the plaque documenting his service in the military to give me some insight into his background. I connect to this because I myself am patriotic; my dad was in the U.S. Air Force and my grandfather was in the Navy. From there, I was engaged by the “new patient” gift that I was not expecting; the follow-up conversations based on the small, detailed notes he keeps to ask me about my wife and kids (who are all patients now), and the monthly newsletter where recently I found out we were both running in the same 5K race with our teams. I have also discovered weird points of connection. For example, I have five boys and he has five girls.

It can be hard to put a dollar value on each action, but relationship marketing, like being on TV, raises all boats, and if you skip a step, you run the risk of sinking the ship.

Frankly, doing business with my doctor is illogical, but we all make illogical decisions about places we do business with.

But why?

Like Zig, we all want old-fashioned service with up-to-date technology. We are all willing to try new companies out, and sometimes a promotion or discount is enough to get a new customer in the door. But price alone is not what keeps most people coming back, and typically, your best customers will need more from you to continue coming back again and again. To survive, we all need repeat buyers, and the fastest way to get a repeat buyer is to make sure people know you and how much you care.

Everyone wants a friend in the business. If you are not an old-fashioned service provider, who is building relationships and trust with your customers, all while using up-to-date technology, you are working at a disadvantage by not giving your customers what they really want.

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