Identifying the Differences Between Customers’ Wants and Needs

In many cases, there may be great differences between a customer’s wants and a customer’s needs; but sometimes there may actually be only very little difference. It all depends on the specific customer. However, the way in which you manage each customer relationship will ultimately make the greatest difference with respect to your prospects for gaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Typically, the more knowledgeable customers are about the equipment they are using, the more their wants and needs are likely to be the same; however, less knowledgeable customers may not really have a clear idea of the distinction between the two.

For example, a copying machine customer may want you to clean the equipment while you are on-site if they had been noticing black marks or spots on the copies coming out of the unit; when, in fact, the main reason for the black marks may have entirely been due to a worn-out roller or other part that needs to be replaced. In a case like this, what the customer really “needed” was clean copies coming out of the machine; however, what they thought they “wanted” was simply for the machine to be cleaned.

If you had listened only to the customer, you might have embarked on a faulty corrective action with respect to satisfying their needs. Remember, when it comes to repairing the machine, you are the expert – not the customer!

Similarly, a customer may want you to take the machine apart and put it back together again, or replace a part that is not really defective, simply as an exercise to ensure that the copier continues to run “smoothly”. However, what the customer may really need is a more effective preventive maintenance schedule for the equipment that would otherwise negate the need to actually have to take the machine apart or perform a parts swap, etc.

In this case, what the customer “wanted” was for you to take the machine apart and put it back together again; however, what they really “needed” was a machine that would not break down in the near future as they were preparing for a major copy run. Properly scheduled preventive maintenance would have accomplished this, making any further corrective actions entirely unnecessary.

The best way for you to understand the differences between customers’ wants and needs is to help them to understand the differences in the first place. It all goes back to the “Listen, Observe, Think, Speak”, or LOTS, approach. By listening to the symptoms that the customer is describing once you arrive on-site, and the problems that they tell you they have been experiencing until you got there, you will probably already be in a good position to surmise what is needed. However, upon further observation with respect to the machine, you will undoubtedly have an even clearer picture. In fact, by this time, you should probably already have a good idea of exactly what the customer “needs”.

This would also be a good time to explain to the customer what the initial diagnosis is, what you plan to do about it, and the anticipated amount of time it will take for you to repair it. By providing this information early, you can avoid running into situations where the customer is telling you they “want” one thing and being forced to tell them they really “need” another.

In other words, the best way to avoid a “debate” about what is “wanted” vs. what is “needed” is to identify the problem and appropriate course of action as soon as possible, keep the customer informed on an as-needed (or as-requested) basis, and let them know what they “need” upfront, before they feel compelled to tell you what they “want”.

Of course, it may not always be this easy. There will always be situations where what you feel the customer needs is not what the customer wants. This is where an ongoing educational process between you and your customers needs to take place. This does not mean to say that the two of you need to sit down, read the equipment manuals together, compare notes, and enter into “philosophical” discussions about equipment maintenance; but, rather, that a series of ongoing, brief discussions should take place every time you are on-site to repair the equipment to ensure that the customer understands why the machine failed, what they could do to lessen the chances for failures in the future, what the recommended “fix” is, and why your way of addressing the situation is better than their way. Sometimes, the solution may be as simple as upgrading to a newer unit.

Basically, what the customer really wants is a piece of equipment that is always up and running, ready to use, unlikely to fail, easy to repair, easy to manage, and easy to use. The details with respect to how each of these is accomplished should really be of no consequence to the customer – although they usually are!

Your role, over time, will be to make sure that you always communicate to the customer about what is “needed” to the point where they have full faith in your knowledge and experience, and are willing to defer to your judgment. The more communications there are between you and your customers, the quicker they will get to the point where they will defer to your recommendations, and the quicker the distinction between their “wants” and their “needs” will disappear.

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There Is an Alternative to Staffing Your Field Technician Force Yourself – the Case for Utilizing an Onsite Freelancer Platform

“The world of work has changed,” according to Jeffrey Leventhal, CEO and co-founder of Work Market, a leading platform and marketplace for finding and managing freelance labor. And this may be especially true for the services industry, where simply doing things the same way they’ve always been done just doesn’t cut it anymore.

However, Leventhal also warns that, “finding the right talent is one of the primary challenges in building an on-demand workforce. Especially for companies who use freelancers at scale, it’s imperative to find a reliable place where you can routinely tap into top-tier freelancers.” For the services industry, top tier typically means highly trained – and in many cases, certified – field technicians that may be confidently dispatched shortly after being recruited and vetted by the organization. Oh, yeah – and they must also be conveniently located proximate to a wide distribution of customer sites.

How can this be done? And what are the potential pitfalls of not having a well thought out plan for action, or not employing the proper tools to support an expanding market demand? Well, … unfortunately, there are many potential stumbling blocks – unless the plan is built on a foundation structured upon an effective onsite freelancer platform.

According to Diego Lomanto, vice president of marketing for Work Market, “there are six tools, or processes, that a services organization requires in order to effectively manage its field technician freelancers. They are find, verify, engage, manage, pay and rate.” Each of these tools may be described as follows:

Find

Identifying and finding the right freelancers for the job at hand represents the best place to start. For many businesses, it is relatively easy to screen lists of potential freelancers in easily defined industry segments, such as accountants, home healthcare aides, plumbers and electricians, etc., by relying on any one of a number of widely used list sources such as Craigslist, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), LinkedIn or Google, etc. However, in the services community, most of these list sources will often come up short.

However, an onsite freelancer platform, such as that offered by Work Market, can handle things much more efficiently by providing a tool that:

  • Allows the user to build assignments quickly, based on previous work,
  • Identifies candidates that best meet the required skill sets, and
  • Provides a mechanism for generating and tracking community ratings for each selected candidate (i.e., to assure a consistent level of freelancer quality)

Verify

The verification of the required skill sets represents another major obstacle for most services organizations in terms of their ability to check out the candidate’s background and capabilities, as they relate specifically to field service. In other words, do they have the right stuff – stuff meaning skills, experience and certifications, among others?

The use of an effective onsite freelancer platform takes nearly all of the burden out of the verification process by allowing the user to:

  • Verify the candidate’s credentials via an integrated verification process; and
  • Identify limit functions which, in turn, will automatically off-board the independent contractor when compliance thresholds are reached, or if certain details change, (i.e., such as expiring insurance coverage or certifications, etc.).

Engage

The engagement process is typically where too many organization begin the process, as it is typically far less painstaking for some to start with the recruitment of “warm bodies”, rather than mounting a concerted effort upfront to find the most qualified candidates – and be able to verify that they are, in fact, eminently qualified for the job.

This is where an onsite freelancer platform provides, perhaps, one of its greatest value propositions to its users, by allowing them to:

  • Organize their field technician workforce into groups for easy assignment en masse; and
  • Eliminate the need for having to deal with only one contractor at a time, or conversely, having to rely on group e-mails that make it impossible to manage responses quickly or effectively.

Manage

Managing the freelancer field force should require the greatest levels of attention and oversight by the organization; however, many managers find themselves too overwhelmed and/or understaffed to effectively handle the situation. Nonetheless, this is often the single process that ultimately defines the direction – and the success – of the organization in terms of its ability to send the best qualified people to each site, and track their performance and progress over time. Many services organizations utilize fully functioning mobile applications to communicate with their mobile field force in real time – but this may not be enough!

By utilizing an onsite freelancer platform, users benefit from a variety of tools that allow for:

  • All field communications and management tools to be resident in a single system,
  • The use of geo-location tools to identify the exact locations of their freelance contractors in real time, and
  • The ability of workers to upload and complete all tasks directly through their mobile devices.

Pay

Paying the organization’s mobile field force freelancers should be one of the easiest jobs to do – but any HR or accounts payable professional will likely tell you different. What should typically only involve the tracking of hours, and cutting checks to the appropriate individuals is generally anything but easy – and PayPal simply doesn’t cut it!

What can make this process as easy as it gets is the ability of the onsite freelancer platform to empower the organization to:

  • Allow for Application Programming Interface (API) integration into existing payment platforms so they can continue to manage their respective accounting processes all in one place, and on a business-as-usual basis; and
  • Create a robust mechanism for reporting key financial and compliance data to HR, Accounting – and the CFO – as necessary.

Rate

However, the series of processes does not end once the freelancer is paid, and the transaction is reported. In fact, the process is never-ending – and cyclical – in that the performance of each and every freelancer is rated, tracked and ranked to identify top talent for future projects, and measure the performance of the onsite freelancer model as a whole, over time. It can also be well argued that the organization will likely have greater confidence in the ratings provided directly by their customers (and/or, their territory managers) rather than by an outside third party, such as Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau (BBB), etc.

Therefore, the principal benefits of an onsite freelancer platform are that it provides users with:

  • An online capability for rating, and viewing ratings, on a much broader scale, and
  • The ability to determine the “height of the bar” with regard to the desired, or expected, quality of the worker’s performance.

Coordinating all of these individual tools into a single set of processes may be daunting for many organizations – but not so much when they have the power of an effective onsite freelancer platform such as that offered by Work Market, at their disposal. It is difficult enough to run a services organization (or any business, for that matter) in general – but it is far more difficult to attempt to do so without the support of the proper technology, tools and processes.

[To download a complimentary whitepaper on “Finding & Managing Onsite Freelancers” for businesses and field service organizations, please visit the Work Market website at Work Market Guide to Finding & Managing Onsite Freelancers.]