Services that are worth their salt don’t just give you what you want. I noticed this the other day when I was buying cheese from a proper cheese shop.
The shopkeeper started asking me questions. What kind of goat’s cheese? Is it with other food, after dinner – what’s the menu? When are you eating it, tonight, or in a few days?
When I walked in there I had a fair idea what I wanted. Within seconds of conversation, I realised that I had a lot to learn about selecting cheese. I also had a much better picture of what would work. After a short while, I was asking the man behind the counter for recommendations.
Compare that to a supermarket: limited range, pre-packed, potluck within safe parameters. Ask a shelf-stacker for advice and you’ll get bemusement and a shrug if you’re lucky.
Another question-asker, the Flower House, create stunning bouquets. Go in there with a budget and they’ll ask what main flower you’d like to design around, how many colours you want in there, what the occasion is, all the while giving advice and telling you how to carry flowers on a bicycle without ruining them.
Come to think of it, I chose my mechanic because he asks me questions too. He explains exactly what’s wrong, finds out what our car usage is going to be like over the next few months, asks whether we would prefer to spread costs or sort it all now; use cheap parts that will need replacing sooner or expensive ones that should see us through.
I drive out of my way to go there, even though there’s an authorised garage just up the road. That’s the authorised garage who take the keys on the front desk, make all the decisions themselves and hand them back with a vastly more expensive bill a few days later.
Incisive questions show expertise and build trust
You could see questions as an annoyance. You could take them as a slight on your intelligence. But I know when someone asks me a question that often they care about solving my unique problem (creating a memorable cheeseboard), serving my unique need (how I use the car), or delighting my unique wife (with a one-off bouquet).
There is a time and place for I know what I want just hand it over. But don’t believe the myth that a tailored service costs more. Not so. The cheese and flowers are cheaper in the supermarket but they are nowhere near as good. When it comes to the garage, the personalised work saves me a small fortune.
I was reminded of this the other day when our web company quoted five times as much as any one else for a contract (we have since discovered). The client got back to us with ‘why are you so expensive?’ We answered with a barrage of questions about what they wanted to do and why, and how they expected to work it. We even questioned some of their numbers.
We got the gig. They didn’t even contact any of the others. They offered us more money than we had asked for.
I guess we knew what we were talking about, and didn’t want them to waste their money. That’s a valuable trait when you find it in other places, so that’s what we aim to do ourselves.
Ask enough insightful questions and you begin to attract trust.
There is many a time a cheap, even free, website will do. But not always. And if you are a business who can’t afford to squander cash and want to find a trustworthy website company who know their stuff and can build something that works just for you, that’s what we’re about.
But you’ll have to put up with a tonne of questions first.