Helpful Expertise

The phrase “Helpful Expertise” seems pleasant, but what does it really mean? And, why do I think it’s so important that it not only deserves this headline, it should also be a real focus for your business in 2015 and beyond?

Nowadays, there’s so much information pouring forth from the Internet that consumers feel they should know more about the subjects that impact them. So, before they buy from you, they want to feel that you have the specific expertise to both help them understand the topic and give them confidence in how your company will actually perform the work. We recently conducted a short consumer phone study on Helpful Expertise and found that eight out of 10 surveyed consumers felt it was important for a company to provide Helpful Expertise.

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Helpful Expertise must be helpful to the person being helped.
smiley 1The first key is to understand and embrace the definition. “Helpful” is in the eye of the person being helped, not the person providing the help. For example, I’m providing a bid to Mary Smith at her house and she asks me about the possibility of noise coming from new pipes. In a misguided attempt at providing her with “Helpful Expertise,” I launch into a technical discussion of tinsel strength, pipe materials, vibration studies and pressure gauge readings, figuring to impress her with my deep expertise. Ten minutes later, she’s looking at me like I’m speaking Flemish. In her mind, “Helpful” has disappeared from my company’s brand meaning.

Helpful Expertise is customized for the individual.
Your potential customer has to feel that the expertise you provide really is helpful to their exact situation and is provided in a manner that suits both their personality and experience with the subject. So, part of the process of providing Helpful Expertise is discovering each customer’s knowledge and assumptions about the topic and getting a feel for their personality.

Ask two types of questions and adjust your advice based on the answers.
smiley 2As you provide Helpful Expertise, intersperse your advice with two types of questions: those that help you determine your potential customer’s knowledge of their specific situation and those that generate feedback from them, which lets you know whether or not they understand the key points you’re making. Then, explain aspects of your topics by matching their verbal pacing and language and frequently making comparisons using metaphors that they’ll likely relate to based on their own experiences and interests. You’ll know whether your expertise is being helpful when you ask them if they’re finding it so. “Was my answer helpful to you or should I explain it differently? Where can I be clearer with my explanation? That probably brings up another question for you, which I’d be happy to help you with.”

Does your company provide Helpful Expertise?
Ah, that’s the big question. I suppose the only true answer is provided by your prospects and customers, but as manager, you can bring up this topic with your staff and make it a theme for 2015. Gather all employees for a meeting and ask them to discuss what Helpful Expertise is and why it’s important. Then, give examples of scenarios where providing the same expertise to two different customers satisfies one while frustrating the other. For your next meeting, challenge each employee to bring one story where they felt they successfully provided Helpful Expertise and got feedback from the customer that they had indeed been helpful. By exploring these Helpful Expertise stories over time, your staff will be attuned to providing it better than your competitors when they engage with prospects and customers.

Jim Stein, Founder and CEO

About Jim Stein, Founder and CEO

Jim Stein is the founder and CEO of American Ratings Corporation. Through his interactions with more than 6,000 local companies and analysis of over 1 million consumer survey responses, Jim has developed easy-to-understand strategies for consumers to enjoy consistently positive customer experiences and for companies to better satisfy customers, increase referral rates and reduce customer attrition.
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