Archive of ‘trust’ category

A Dangerously Level Playing Field

It seems like all my posts lately have been about Google Reader in one way or another. So let’s keep it going!
Just a small observation today: when reading posts in Reader, all posts are presented in the place and in the same way. That’s a good thing for info-holics but it can also be dangerous.
For the most part, the text formatting, professional graphic design, additional content and the overall ‘feel’ of the source site is stripped away in Reader leaving you with just the article itself. That’s great for avoiding distractions, especially when you don’t have to contend with mortgage ads or the dreaded auto-play videos that some sites insist on using. But some of those things (professional layout, the content that surrounds the article, etc) are indicators of authority that you just don’t get in Reader.
If you’re like me, you organize Reader feeds using folders. That puts all of your sources for news, which have varying levels of trustworthiness, in the same place with very little to distinguish between them. In Reader, all sources are presented equally.
That’s good news for small publishers or business that offer RSS feeds – your content will appear right alongside the big time news outfits. It’s dangerous to consumers who are digging through a large volume of news in Reader. Without a good mental filter, it’s easy to take in all of that information as if it’s been reviewed by an editor and appropriately vetted when in reality it can come from any rube with a laptop.
I put myself in that category and have caught myself reacting to information before considering the source carefully enough. It’s especially tempting to take news and run when it’s niche or industry content that major outlets might not have or if it’s breaking, juicy news. (See Brett Farve’s latest retirement proclamation, based on second hand emails and spread via Twitter.)

Domino’s Pizza Turnaround: The Missing Ingredient

By now you’ve probably seen Domino’s Pizza’s commercial where they admit that their pizza was terrible. They’ve grabbed a lot of attention with this bold tactic and I give them credit for daring to be so transparent.

For all the things they’ve done well here, the story still seems less than genuine to me. They forgot one thing: the scapegoat.
They show chefs and executives reading all the negative feedback, swallowing hard and going back at it with a new enthusiasm. After a big group clap, they unveil the new pizza recipe that tastes way better than before. Does anyone else see the problem here?
The people delivering the new pizza are the same people that made the old pizza. Why should we trust them to do any better this time?
Domino’s almost got it right. But if you’re going to admit your product stinks, heads have to roll. We need to know that the problem has been identified and eliminated. There has to be a ‘new management’ moment that makes us feel like things are truly different.
Ending the ‘pizza makeover’ that way might not have been as uplifting but it would be more believable.

Unsolicited Advice for the Professional Service Industry

The recent explosion of information and tools available through the internet has changed things in a variety of industries. One industry that is slow to be transformed? The professional services: painters, landscapers, movers, appliance repair, etc.
Whenever I look for someone to help me with one of those tasks, I’m amazed at how stuck in the past these vendors are. That makes it a real opportunity for someone willing to get with the times.

The experience of hiring a contractor is a little unsettling. When looking for a furnace repairman for example, you’ve got to find someone qualified for the job even though you don’t know much about furnaces. What questions do you ask? What is a reasonable price? Am I inviting a weirdo into my house?

Ultimately, the issue comes down to trust. Trust is everything to contractors.

Getting people to trust you is tricky. It’s hard to put customers at ease, especially if they have just shelled out a bunch of money.
Most vendors don’t help the matter at all with their behavior. I’ve found that even simple acts that build trust like calling someone back when you say you will or showing up on time are missed by your average painter or handyman. Here’s where technology can help.
The internet can be a great equalizer. Small operations can use design templates to create a good looking website that will be miles ahead of the crappy designs that typify contractor sites. Using basic SEO practices, a 2-man lawn mowing service can rank for relevant keywords, boosting their credibility. (Because these jobs are performed by local contractors, ranking for local terms is very doable.) Blogging is a great opportunity to demonstrate expertise and build trust too.

Tech savvy companies could really stand out if thought about using new services creatively. Why not use Google Voice to ring multiple phones from the same 800 number and manage voicemail quote requests online? Or allow customers to see a live schedule for estimates on a website and book their own time? Or offer GPS tracking of service trucks so customers can know when to expect their service person to arrive?

The amazing thing is that the tools to do these things aren’t prohibitively expensive or hard to use. They’re cheap or even free.
And for these types of jobs, each additional sign up is huge. A typical painting job might be worth $2,500 and keep a crew busy for the better part of a week.

So why don’t more professionals take advantage of the free tools available? I’m not sure. I think it has to do with the fact that often times the same person fixing your plumbing is the one handling lead generation. They are focused on their trade and don’t want to think about the business side more than they have to. Marketing is something to get out of the way so you can get on with your work.
If that’s right, technology can’t help after all. The effort needs to come first.

For a company willing to try new things though, today’s tools present an opportunity for extremely efficient marketing which costs very little money. The industry will change eventually so this opportunity is only available for a limited time.

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