What makes you credible? More importantly, what makes your company credible?
In the water well industry, credibility is a blend of completed projects, state licenses and certifications. The yardstick for that credibility may be individuals in those famous Master Groundwater Contractor green jackets you see at industry events. You may consult with an MGWC, or even achieve the distinction yourself, but most customers never know the importance of that credibility. The drilling industry does a poor job promoting our credibility to the customer.
We will never hear a customer say, “I selected X drilling company because they are the only triple board-certified company in the area.” Most of our business occurs in the unknown subsurface. Without the ability to show what happens downhole, how do we demonstrate credibility to customers who have to know everything? As millennials become the majority of our customer base, the construction industry finds itself with customers who not only want information, but crave it. Compound the information-crave generation with the approximately 500% increase of professionals working remotely, and the industry confronts new normal among private well owners.
Credibility starts with our ability to educate the customer. The average customer understands that when they turn the faucet on, clean water comes out. They do not understand the complexities of a well’s life cycle, pumping equipment or changes in hydrogeology conditions. Our customers have two options for education: us or easy-to-access — and often unreliable — resources on the internet. We, of course, want them to choose us, the National Ground Water Association or another reputable industry source. The worst-case scenario is the customer turns to social media and best practices go out the window as they learn from Freddy, the home hack YouTuber. We drive customers to Freddy by holding back information in fear of customers finding another contractor to do the job for less after we’ve explained the process.
Yes, we all have the story of walking a project with a customer, outlining the best way to lay out and complete the job, only to find out we lost the job after the customer we so thoroughly informed gave our plans to another company. This situation, unfortunately, happens. But you build credibility from trust, and the best way to earn trust is to demonstrate your knowledge. Sharing expertise will always get you more work than believing that everything is a trade secret. This year, I wrote about being the living book for the scientist. Now it’s time to be the living internet search engine for our customers.
When you do an initial consultation with a customer, start their education by discussing local wells in the area and expectations for home use. Before the pandemic, it was easy to assume daily water usage for a primary home. Now, with the entire family working from home, our assumptions can be wrong. After we understand the new home’s requirements, ask the customer discovery questions. Do you have any concerns? Do you know how a well is constructed? Even if a customer doesn’t have questions, take time to explain the fundamentals of the process. Finally, finish by discussing the disruption involved with mobilizing equipment, and drilling or rehabbing a well. I assume that if I don’t thoroughly explain my process, Freddy’s latest social media post will — filling the gap I left with potentially suspect, less-than-expert information.
New Audience Watching
Think about the number of times you pulled a pump or drilled a well, and the customer was there at the start and then returned after all the work finished. Today, with family members working and learning remotely, we have a new audience watching our teams work. What does that mean for our company? How our people complete the project is just as important as the finished project. Professional presence is everything in the 21st century. Our teams have to be prepared to interact with the customer and family throughout the project on a residential job. If a customer has a question or concern, boots on the ground need to be ready to communicate and get the information back through proper channels. A service tech who says, “I don’t know, you need to call the office,” does not demonstrate strong credibility. A team member who says, “I will call the office right now and connect you with my boss,” promotes confidence.
Our most powerful credibility tool is our ability to complete a job safely and efficiently, precisely how we explained it. We landed the job through customer education. We know it is likely we will have an audience excited to watch. Now, demonstrate your professionalism through execution. Yes, some jobs throw us a curveball. When that happens, discuss the issues with the customer and get the project back on track. The complex phases of drilling a well or pulling a pump are not what often makes a crew stumble on execution. It’s the disruption factor of a job that affects our overall performance. I look for all impacts that require restoration after the job finishes. That can start with matting a front yard to prevent ruts or staging drop clothes for when someone on the team walks to the utility room. Ten years ago, we didn’t worry about a new type of audience and the fact that they have a camera connected to the world.
Digital Credibility Affects the Industry
When we demonstrate to the customer our knowledge and then follow through with professionalism and effective execution, we create great credibility in our area. For many companies, word-of-mouth credibility drove a majority of sales for decades. Today, we still have word of mouth, but it comes in the form of digital credibility. It is impossible to satisfy every customer we encounter. Furthermore, the internet has increased the number of problematic, demanding customers — whose publicly posted critiques can affect our company or industry credibility. Control that impact by promoting our industry in the best light possible. Be an educator and entertainer, and consistently execute what you promise the customer. When a company achieves these goals, it raises the credibility of both the company and the entire industry.