How to Lock Your Clients – 2: Exceed Expectations


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.

Under promise

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.

Over deliver

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.


Picture credits: creo que soy yo fabya9

How to Lock-in Your Clients – 1: Listen to them

Many small businesses face this issue.

Listening skills for small business

“I want my customer to stay with me and not go to the competition. How do I do that?”

Many small businesses think that making their clients stay is difficult and complex. Nothing can be farther from truth. It’s simple, easy and, best of all, does not cost anything.

Most [means all :-)] people have a need-the need to feel important; the need to be acknowledged and understood; the need to feel valued and cared for. When you deliver a service, the above needs come to the fore. When a client’s need for feeling important is not satisfied, it hurts him/her and feel neglected. They complain – “service is poor.”

How do you make the client feel important and cared for? There is one simple way.
Listen to your client well. It’s as simple as it sounds. And it’s easy to implement.

How do you listen better? The first thing to do is to start with YOU. You must develop a desire to listen to your client.

DESIRE to listen

You must develop a desire to listen to your client. What does she have to say? Listen patiently and wait until he/she is finished. If something is not clear, ask him/her at the logical moment. The desire to listen must be as a receiver of information- not as a critic. The desire is to understand the client and not to make her agree to something or to change her opinion.

If you get this, the rest are all details. It’s just a matter of time you will be able to listen better. If you don’t it’s unlikely that you will improve. So I suggest that you check for yourself if you have the desire.

Once you have the desire, it is time to go beyond understand the how to listen better. I recommend these good resources that give you very good grounding on how to improve your listening skills.

1. How to be a good listener

2. Practicing listening skills

3. Eight barriers to effective listening

In addition, the table below (Source: Active listening: Skills Associated with Empathy ) summarizes what you should do.

It breaks down listening skill into detailed tasks. It’s a good check list of activities that you can do to improve your listening skills.

What you should do

What it means

Attending, acknowledging

Providing verbal or non-verbal awareness of


other, i.e. eye contact

Restating, paraphrasing

Responding to person’s basic verbal message


Reflecting feelings, experiences, or content

that has been heard or perceived through cues


Offering a tentative interpretation about the

other’s feelings, desires, or meanings

Summarizing, synthesizing

Bringing together in some way feelings and

experiences; providing a focus


Questioning in a supportive way that requests more

information or that attempts to clear up confusions

Giving feedback

Sharing perceptions of the other’s ideas or feelings;

disclosing relevant personal information


Showing warmth and caring in one’s own individual way

Checking perceptions

Finding out if interpretations and perceptions

are valid and accurate

Being quiet

Giving the client time to think as well as to talk

Your clients will love you if you develop listening skills. That’s because they don’t have good professionals – those who care for them and value them-and so are looking for them. If you can show them that you are ‘good’ and are willing to listen to them, they will give you more business.

Before I close this post, I would like to tell you that having listening skills alone will not cut it. You have to perform. You have to deliver what the client wants. You have to do what the client is paying you to do. But you can expect better loyalty from them because you’ve listened better.

I hope you will be able to imbibe listening skills and delight your clients!

About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is an expert in small businesses and is the CEO of, an online marketplace for services like writing, business consulting, research, software, online-tutoring etc. You can find good service providers and collaborate with them on p2w2. He blogs at You can Subscribe to RSS feed here.

Picture: LifeDynamix