Perhaps you have heard someone respond with this word … it seems on the surface to be a bit trendy and perhaps cool to some, but it is truly disturbing when you get to the root of it. Wikipedia defines it this way:
Whatever is a slang term meaning “whatever you say” and “I don’t care what you say.” The term is used to dismiss a previous statement and express indifference and is usually considered offensive and impolite. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the word became a sentence in its own right; in effect an interjection, it is used as a passive-aggressive conversational blocking tool, leaving the responder without a convincing retort. Anything they do or say can simply be blocked by the retort of “whatever.”
Anyone trained in sales skills knows that indifference is the worst condition to encounter … it essentially means that you have failed to achieve relevance in the situation. No one who thought you could help them in their situation would rightfully respond with “whatever.”
Yet, that seems to be where we are. The industry has become irrelevant to most customers. Sure, we are all over the 2-3% of energy consumers out there who eat up each and every idea and program we offer. Yes, we can make sense to the 10-15% of others who follow the issues and tend to be intellectually involved.
But, no, we have failed at reaching the masses. We are simply irrelevant to the average American. They only pay attention to energy when they can’t pay the bill and fear losing power for non-payment. To those who deal with this, they also know that it is the AC, cable, and refrigerator that matter. At these times, you are relevant for sure, but how do we truly image ourselves as relevant.
Perhaps we should take a lesson from an AT&T call center representative who called my wife, Susan, out of her concern that someone might have incorrectly billed phone calls to our account. She started the conversation with the statement that she was concerned that the most recent bill was much higher than normal … and perhaps something might be amiss. Susan said she hadn’t noticed the recent bill was higher … and the agent said … “No, you wouldn’t have noticed because it hasn’t been sent to you yet. I wanted to be sure it was correct before it went out because if you get this bill, which is so much higher than your previous bills, you will probably call to find out why, so I called you first.”
Needless to say, the call became highly relevant. Susan then explained that I had gone out on my own and was now operating my office out of our house and there were a lot of business calls. Those were the days when you were charged by the minute … you do remember that, right? The representative then offered a program designed to help me reduce costs for just that situation. Susan related to me later how impressed she was with AT&T after that experience, and it had the additional advantage of helping that account representative achieve her business plan sign-up goals.
Have you thought through your approach to customers following this idea? Do they see you as proactive and relevant? Do your online tools offer specific ideas that truly relate to your customer’s situation? Or, does your online presence simply get a “whatever” when customers experience it? Do you even have the feedback mechanism on your website or applications to know that you are getting this response? We do … and almost all of the feedback responses we get are thanks for providing information that is relevant to my home or business.