Experts still research

My deck needs a good power-washing and sealant to protect it for the coming years.  I do not know anything about these things.  I haven’t needed any repair work done on my townhome yet – so I don’t have a regular handyperson in mind for this task.  Knowing I don’t know a thing about this, I started my research.  I contacted a few handypersons for their bids.  I actually found an on-line application that will collect bids for you as well.  I ask found a “ask the handyman” (askthehandyman.net) online website that gave me his estimates on the deck my size, frequently asked questions, and how long each task should take, etc.  I also researched the best sealant in consumer reports and various other places.  Now I know what type of questions to ask a handyperson to verify that the job will be done correctly.

I still can’t actually “do the job”.  I’m still unskilled in this area.  But I am better armed than I was before.

The internet is a wonderful thing.

Another similar incident came across my path.  A CPA friend of mine admitted that he likes to give his client quick answers “right on the spot” based on his long background and experience in the job.  His clients seem very happy with these quick responses, but sometimes he feels he answers too quickly.  I recommended that he continues to give his clients quick access to his experience and knowledge.  But I also recommended he includes, “I’m 95% (or whatever level of confidence he feels is appropriate) sure this completely covers your concerns, but I want to do some additional investigation to see if there isn’t a better solution.  I’ll get back with you on Thursday with a complete answer”. He was delighted with this small tweak in his MO.

This incident made me realize a few things:

  1. People that “think” they know the answer rarely look it up.
  2. People that “know” they don’t know the answer often research.
  3. Sometimes the “unskilled in the area” come up with a better solution because of the extra research.

New Economy is creating more “do-it-yourselfers”

New advances come up all the time, even in the area of “do-it-yourself”.  The combination of the internet, wireless connections, and powerful search engines allow people access to more information with little effort or time investment.  Armed with this information, people are more likely to “do-it-themselves”.   Unfortunately, the consequences are as bountiful as the information.   One of the consequences to small businesses may be a loss of a potential client.

  1. The information on the internet, although abundant, is not always accurate.  There’s not much data validation or fact checking.  Misinformation is certainly mixed in with the good information.  This mixture gives the reader a false sense of accurate knowledge.
  2. Because of this information, potential clients may try more things on their own, which sometimes results in a bigger problem later on.
  3. Clients now come to you, armed with this mixture of good and bad information (and a larger problem).  When they come to you with this mix, it may take you time to explain what is valid and what is not – for their specific case.  You may even explain that if they had come to you before they did XYZ, it would have been an easier problem to solve.  Client may interpret this as you just dismissing this information as false, just so you can charge more or take longer on the project.
  4. Experts can also become frustrated when clients question their responses with “info they found on the internet”.  Experts may feel that their experience and background is now being questioned. Because they feel frustrated, they may come off as arrogant (which turns off prospective clients).

A few things that can assist with this phenomenon are:

1)       Acknowledge the inevitable.  People will go to the internet for “do-it-yourself” help

Stressful economic time, people are looking for inexpensive solutions and advise.  The internet, blogs, search engines fill this need.  This is actually a good thing, because you can use it as well.

2)       As an expert, we need to be continually learning, evolving and experimenting.

Use the internet, blogs, and search engines to your advantage.  You can do this in at least two ways:

  • Be the expert they find in their searches
  • Learn more about your field

3)       Give your clients homework

Be well armed with internet research and blogs that you feel confident in.  Point your clients to external sources that support your views on the matter.  Educate your clients on what to look for and what to suspect.  Highlight what makes your clients’ case different. The more they investigate the right type of information, the more they will realize that you are the right person for them.

If there are tasks that you can off-load to your clients, then give them the opportunity to reduce their bill by doing some those tasks.

4)       Trust and Validate

Do your homework.  As an expert in your field trust your experience and validate your answers.  Use the same offending deed to your advantage.

5)       Do not take it personally

Appreciate that the “common folks” are interested enough in your field to do the research and bring you back the information that they have found.  Thank them for the time they invested in this investigation.

But also don’t spend time defending your procedures or your answers.  Just acknowledge that there’s lots of information out there.  Express your extensive background in similar cases and your best recommendations based on their individual situation.  Stand by your procedures.  Invite them to allow you to do your best for them, or help them find someone else.

Conclusion:

There’s an abundance of information out there, some good, some not so good.  And it can be frustrating at times, when clients approach you with their interpretation of your profession.  But if you take the time to objectively look at the offending object, you can often turn it around to your benefit.    Ask yourself, how can I use this to my advantage?

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