At the recent Flying Solo (a community of solo and micro-business owners) annual conference in Sydney, LinkedIn expert Jennifer Bishop closed her presentation with the offhand comment that ‘help is the new black’. She was referring to building a sustainable and credible network of professionals on LinkedIn, of course, but I could see how the concept of help might be so foreign to some (and let’s face it, forgotten by many of us after a rough week) that we don’t realise it’s always been what black is to fashion—the basic staple, a solid foundation.

The thing is, we all need to be helping our customers, both present and future. We need to be solving their problems, making their day easier, finding out what they need and how we can get it for them.

Harvard Business Review article, based on a three-year customer service research project, explained why businesses should stop trying to ‘delight’ their customers. ‘Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn,’ it said.

Think of all the wonderful experiences you’ve had with businesses—is the reason you had such a great experience due to the fact that they solved your problem? A couple of weeks ago I signed up for the Virgin Active gym in Sydney, and was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of mirror space, hair straighteners and hairdryers in the women’s change rooms, as well as pin-coded lockers with clear plastic squares so your membership card, and name, can be placed in the locker facing outwards. It immediately solved the ‘which one is my locker’ and ‘do you have a spare $2 coin?’ problems, as well as the rush for mirror space as everyone frantically dresses for work in the morning. They had obviously put themselves in the mindset of their customers, and figured out how to solve problems common to so many gyms.

‘It’s not that successful people are givers; it is that givers are successful people.’ Patti Thor

Help is not only limited to your product, but your marketing as well. You may have the perfect solution to potential customers’ problems, but unless they know about it, it’s no use to anybody. So take a look at your website, brochures, sales letters and presentation pitches. Are you so busy talking about yourself and what you or your product offers and provides and contains, that you forget to explain how you can solve their problem? For example:

Huey’s Mowing offers a range of services including daily, weekly and monthly garden maintenance.
Huey’s Mowing can maintain your lawn while you’re at work or on holidays, so you can relax and spend your free time enjoying your garden.

The second statement solves a problem—that most people would like to enjoy their garden, but don’t want to spend all their free time maintaining it. It takes one thing off their to-do list, and that… well, helps.

What do you think? Is helping your customers more important than delighting them? Can we try to solve problems that customers don’t even know exist yet?

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