Last week I wrote about happy customers and managing expectations.
Today, I’d like to take that a little further, by looking at ways we can use expectations to benefit our business.
Last week all I suggested was; “under promise and over deliver, but not by too much“. OK, not too insightful, although often this first most basic step is ignored. So please ensure your customer service team understand this can can use it in appropriate situations. Don’t use it every time customers ask for something. Definitely use it when the customers request is out of the ordinary or something that can be done but uses your resources.
Beyond this, there’s a lot you can immediately apply to your business about customer expectations. Here are five great applications:
- Customers Expectations are based on what has come before. Because of this, it is important you have an awareness of what is accepted practice in your industry (the general expectation) and how you can do better while making money. Review how your competitors currently solve the problem your business solves, and find a better or unique way to do it. Sometimes just being more reliable or simpler than what is currently accepted, even if the outcome is the same, can be enough. An example of this is when competition came to telecoms. Typically your phone took weeks or more to be connected; the new player on the block looked at 2-3 day connection as a step up in customer service. Now, we expect same day service.
- Don’t assume everyone knows what is going to happen next. Managing expectations is about saying what the customer will experience as they are buying or after they have bought from you (or your equivalent). Review how you describe what people will receive and ask yourself if you have done a good enough job explaining what is going to happen next. An example of this is ordering room service. You order, and the operator on the phone comments that the restaurant is busy tonight and your order could take 20 minutes to fill, are asks whether you happy with that. You say OK, yes, and are delighted when the food arrives in 15 minutes. The receptionist knew there could be an unforeseen delay, and built this into your expectations, plus a margin for error. A tip on where managing expectations can go wrong. There could become a tendency to over manage expectations; when businesses get into super under-promising and/or super over-delivering. Lets go back to the hotel and room service for two examples. You ring for room service, the receptionist – trying to manage your expectations – says delivery will take an hour … you say forget it! (Failure in super under promising can mean people don’t use your service). Or you ring Room service and are told your meal will be delivered in 30 minutes, you agree, and it arrives in 10 minutes just as you were stepping into the shower… this super-exceptional service leaves you unhappy as the expectation was vastly over-delivered.
- When feedback starts coming in from your customers, it probably points to a difference between what you said was going to be delivered, how that was interpreted by the customer, and then what was delivered. This kind of feedback is incredibly valuable because it challenges your assumptions and enables you to spot your weak points- either in setting expectations, communicating these or in delivering on these. Don’t ignore this feedback. Also, be careful not to assume one piece of feedback represents the majority. You can never be certain, so collect enough data before making any changes. Back to the hotel and room service; ask the receptionist to note down feedback on time to deliver. If one customer says 20 minutes is too long, maybe wait for a few data-points before approaching the kitchen to speed service. But is almost every customer changes their mind about ordering when told the delivery will take 45 minutes, then maybe change the kitchens performance standards.
- If you are looking for new industries to break into, look for markets where the current businesses, either due to laziness, or a lack of competition, or bureaucracy, have set standards that can easily be improved. Ryanair has been fantastic at doing this, and about commenting on what they intend to do influencing customer expectations. Despite the fact that Ryanair has been assessed to have one of the worst “customer service” among airlines in Europe, their strategy has been exceptionally successful. Their strategy is to identify a sufficiently large consumer group with unmet needs that really motivating- super cheap pricing, and on time arrival. Ryanair, the no frills on-time airline, is still insanely profitable as sufficient people will travel Ryanair, put up with the “lack of service” just for an ultra-cheap price and on-time service. Ryanair is very open that they have no frills of any kind, you expect no frills and are thus not disappointed when they deliver no frills except a super chew\ap price and on-time arrival- expectations met.
- Your goal as a General Manager is to identify an unmet or poorly met customer need, present the customer with an offer using the language they use and can understand, then make sure the offer is delivered how your customers expect it to be. In managing expectations its vital to communicate clearly what you exactly you offer otherwise any marketing you do is wasted. Don’t market an offer of a motorcycle when you sell new scooters. The difference may be considered subtle, but I doubt any person wanting a new motorcycle will be happy when you turn up with a 50CC Honda scooter. If you really understand your customers needs, be like Ryanair and be open about what you offer. They offer the lowest fares ever, on-time flights. And be clear as well about what you don’t offer- in Ryanair’s case comfortable seats, free food and drinks, free baggage. Ryanair is fantastic at using PR to manage customer expectations downward. They started a controversy about charging people to go to the toilet! No, they haven’t yet charged for using toilets, but this controversy reinforces passenger expectations that it is a really no-frills airline and managing their expectations downwards. Ryanair also promoted standing seats, telling the public they wanted to put more people on the plane to get costs down and fares down too. Both emphasis travelers expectations (low fares/ NO frills). So when you fly Ryanair- as long as you believe its the lowest price flight, and arrive on-time with the bags you have brought – you are delighted and Ryanair continue to make a healthy profit.
So there are five great ways that managing expectations can benefit you and grow your business. Next we’ll look in-depth into how consumers perceive expectations and how you can use this to build a customer service strategy.