In today’s competitive world, you get your differentiation from gaining trust – by exceeding expectations every time and having great customer relationships.
The relationship culture gets reflected in our lingo – nightclubs offer “a good time” not beer or other stuff. A jeweler promises: ‘We enhance your appearance,” while a real estate seller says “We create happy living environments for people” – not brick and mortar. 🙂
Making promises is easy. Delivering is not. When you make a promise, you set an expectation. When you deliver, there is a comparison between the expectation and what you delivered. If you deliver more than expected, the customer talks positively about you to some people. If not, they talk bad about you to many more.
Lining up the ducks – align expectations to what you can deliver
The key to exceeding expectations is setting them right. You first figure out what the customer wants and then anchor your service promise at a little less than where you can deliver. Promise only what you can deliver. If you know you can’t deliver, or delivering that promise is improbable, don’t promise. Simple. I know it’s difficult. But if you would like to build relationships, this is where you start.
When it comes to promising something, then make sure you promise a little less than what you can realistically deliver. That does not mean low balling your targets. It only
means you assess what you can deliver and leave a little buffer for uncertainties and then promise that. E.g. A customer asks you if she can get a discount of 20% on the good she wants to purchase. You know that you can give a standard discount of 15%. But to give 20% discount, you have to take an approval from the company you bought the goods from so you can pass on the discount to it. In this case, you tell customer that you can’t give a discount, unless you talk to the company. After you know that you can pass on the discount, you promise the client and give the discount – not before.
My experience is that so long as a customer’s expectation are adequately managed (i.e., “you’ll receive a response from us within 24 hours” and you live up to that commitment) you can manage to meet expectations. But to exceed expectations, you have to do some extra work.
Take for instance a 24-hour after-sale service guaranteed by most automobile manufacturers. Suppose a customer finds a problem with the car stereo and takes it to the dealer. The dealer can, on inspection:
(a) Find no problem with it
(b) Find the problem, but fail to repair it
(c) Find the problem and repair it in the expected time
(d) Find the problem, repair well ahead of the expected time
(e) Performs (d) or replaces the entire audio system or finds a new problem that he fixes along with the audio system repair
In this example, the (c) response will merely meet a customer’s expectations, while a (d) response will exceed it and an (e) response is what will actually induce strong customer “delight.”
You have to go that extra mile in delighting a customer, even if you charge a premium for it. (Remember what we said about customers willing to pay a premium for good experience in one of our earlier posts?) In ‘e’ option, the customer would not mind paying an extra fee for getting the other problem fixed.
When you can’t meet a commitment
In case you are unable to meet a commitment, the best way out is to own up to the shortfall. The thumb rule is: make a clean breast of the bad news as fast as you receive it; while delaying good news delivery till it actually happens. Both will prove your sensitivity to the customer.
Exceeding customer expectations (not just meeting it) is one of the key ways to grow your business. If you just meet expectations, you just met them. If you exceed, you become someone your customers should take notice.