“We are in the customer service business. Our goal must be to exceed our customers’ expectations everyday”. – Dave Thomas
True customer satisfaction and stellar customer service can only happen through a complete and proper understanding of the customer expectations. Unless your company knows what they want, who they are and what they expect, it would be difficult to even match up to the expectations. Companies should make it a practice to ask their customers whether they have been able to meet or exceed their expectations through the products or services and customer service. It is only based on this feedback that companies can assuredly know that they match customer expectations. The reality now is that customer expectations are continually on the rise, and unless companies are attuned to them, they will fall short of those expectations leading to customer ire and attrition.
However companies approach this, there is no escaping that it is customer expectations that sets and raises the bar for customer service and the resultant satisfaction or dissatisfaction. This obviously affects customer loyalty and if they are displeased it is unlikely that they will return. Pleased customers will return but delighted customers will speak positively of your company through every possible channel. This happens when your company has consistently exceeded customer expectations. Customer testimonials are great free publicity that eliminates the first thread of doubt that most prospective customers have. So what are some of unchanging and universal facts of customer expectations?
– Even before entering into a business relationship, customers have a perceived notion of what they would like to receive from the relationship. Most often the customer expectations encompass receiving more than what they expect and pay for.
– Customers expect that companies will be dependable, honest, swift and courteous. Companies can exceed these expectations by ensuring that each experience a customer has leaves them feeling happy and knowing that they have commitment from the company
– Customer expectations operate from two levels. One level is where they expect a certain kind of service and product and when they receive it they are satisfied. The other level, which is the most desired one, is the one where they expect to get more than what they are receiving.
– Among the top in customer expectations is relationship building. Customers expect a personalized relationship with the company they are doing business with and are happy when it is on-going and consistent. They also prefer if the company connects with them to strike and deal and when it is done, they expect to interact with the same person each time they connect with the company so that they do not have repeat any information. This creates a bond and a feeling of oneness, which is very healthy for the association.
– Customer expectations also include that companies will keep their promise on everything committed. It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver keeping in mind the competitive marketplace that everyone is operating in. Broken promises can have serious impacts on customer expectations and leave them feeling highly irritated with a possibility of severing the relationship.
It is essential and difficult but not impossible to manage customer satisfaction and one of the metrics of doing so is managing customer expectations. To prevent souring of customer relationships, companies must carefully set and meet customer expectations. If it seems like something is going out of hand, it may be time to re-set or re-establish those expectations in order to manage them better.
As we said earlier on, customer expectations set the bar for customer satisfaction. It would benefit companies immensely to understand customer expectations from this aspect:
– Companies can know for sure which level of customer service keeps customers satisfied and what takes that satisfaction to a level of delight and wow
– Customer expectations when properly understood can be disseminated to employees as knowledge, making it easier for them to service customers according to those standards
– Once meeting customer expectations becomes a standard, it paves the way to exceed these expectations and make customers become enthusiastic advocates of your company and its service.
– Having a grasp of customer expectations also lowers the number of complaints. Also in the event of a complaint, resolution become quicker and more effective since you would know what the customer expects as an outcome
All customers are different and so are their needs. Their understanding of stellar customer service is also different and to know what the customer feels, it is imperative that companies ask them rather than going by what they believe they ‘know’. Sometimes companies may find that the customer expectations are beyond what they can deliver – for example a company may not have the infrastructure to support a 24×7 online chat service. They would need to work around that to be able to provide what the customer needs. Also products and services must be priced according to what the customer finds suitable and yet remain profitable for your company. That is why knowing customer expectations at the outset is crucial – it allows you to understand them better and weave them in to your company’s policies and customer service strategy.
Knowing and understanding customer expectations at the outset, helps your company to work with the customer to set the expectations at an optimum level. Don’t set the expectations too high lest you fail. Setting them too low can leave your customer feeling that your company is incompetent. Let your customers know what level of service they can expect, the kind of support you provide and the established standards in your company to ensure that their needs are fulfilled. Every company would have a different method of satisfying the customer expectations just as every customer would have a different set of needs and expectations.
What would work well is if companies were to treat every customer as the first, the only and the one person who could give them the finest testimonial. This will drive everyone in the company to serve the customer with the highest level of service and provide the best products possible.
Before companies can strive to exceed customer expectations, they must first reach a level where they consistently meet those expectations. It is only then that you would have a set of satisfied customers. Building on these levels of satisfaction, companies can aim to exceed them thereby creating experiences that wow and delight customers. These are the experiences that the customers would excitedly share with others, giving a boost to your company’s reputation and earning for it more customers.
Having said that companies must strive to exceed expectations, there will be times when companies will fail to please. Customers will be dissatisfied and the reasons could be many. Untrained staff, technology failure, human error, heightened expectations due to past great service levels – are some of the reasons for a service lapse leaving customers unhappy. The good news is that these occasional lapses are tolerated by customers since your company was consistent in providing great service. All they would expect is that the right is wronged swiftly and there is a genuine effort to make it better and ensure that the error is not repeated.
Customers know what good service is, what they can expect and what companies can give. These form the customer expectations and companies that get a grip on these expectations are the ones who can not only meet them but also consistently exceed them.