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Friday, September 4, 2009

Geeks rule the world AND provide the best service.

I spend my money with the service company that puts the most expertise on the front line, providing service to customers.

Don’t get me wrong, quality of service offering and the underlying products are unbelievably important to me.

But I usually look for the provider with “service geeks” on the front line – those people that know far more than a layperson, but also more than their competitors, about the products or services they represent.

In any service environment, companies have a wide enough variety of differentiated offerings that I have a staggering selection of options to choose from to satisfy my immediate need. Because I have a choice, and I’m not an expert, I almost immediately search out the advice of an expert – a service or product geek – that knows the topic deeply.

On any trip to Whole Foods, there’s a good chance my wife will conduct 90% of the shopping while I spend 20 minutes talking with the cheesemonger about options for a $6 block of cheese to complement a meal or wine selection. He’s a cheese geek, and I want to use his expertise to make a better decision and learn a small measure of what he knows. While I may not seek him out every time I pick up cheese, there’s a good chance a previous conversation is influencing the current purchase.

If I’m at an unfamiliar restaurant, I’ll almost always ask the wait staff what is the one thing on the menu I absolutely have to have. When they answer anything at all, I’m never disappointed. They’re geeks about the food their restaurant makes – they know better than I do and taking their advice yields satisfaction. Every once in awhile, someone will say a variation of, “Everything here is good.” They’re showing that they don’t care enough about the offering to have a default answer. They’re not geeks, they’re employees. In these cases, I have almost universally been disappointed with the meal and the other aspects of the service experience as well.

In the end, if I’m ordering coffee, I want to be talking to a coffee geek.

If I’m ordering a cable package, I want to talking to a geek who watches way more cable television than is likely healthy.

If I’m in the beer store, I want the merchandise assistant to tell me about the small batch micro-brew that just came in that can only be consumed in small quantities but simply has to be tried.

When service providers display their passion and their knowledge, we’re completely drawn in as customers, almost regardless of setting. We feel that spending time with the provider is making us more knowledgeable, more of an insider, and more confident in our purchases / selections

Whether expertise comes as a result of internal training or is due to company hiring practices, the company that invests more in making its front line service providers knowledgeable about their business category is the company that I will spend with, almost 100% of the time.

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