There are certain phrases that are overused all of the time. I remember sitting in a meeting, getting ready to hear about innovative, out-of-the-box ways to exceed customer expectations, and I waited to see what it is, with almost baited breath. The answer? A coupon. OH MY! Yup, you blew away the customer with that!
“Exceeding Customer Expectations” is a great idea. It’s a phrase often times mentioned in staff meetings, to rally a sales force before a big event, or in board meetings prior to a new campaign launch. Unfortunately, it is most often used as a euphemism for giving good service. This more common usage has turned the phrase into a cliche, and it’s time for us to take this phrase back. In order turn this motto into a functional call to action, we need to re-examine how and why we use it.
Before you can exceed customer expectations, you should probably try to figure out what the customer expects. Of course, you can go with the old generic standbys, like “The customer expects great service!” or “The customer expects a friendly atmosphere!” The problem with these general, all encompassing “Expectations” is that they are idealistic. It’s hard to fix real shortcomings with idealistic, sweeping statements.
Realistically speaking, a customer may expect to be able to walk into a store, pick up an item, and pay for it in cash, without having to provide the customer’s email address, zip code, and or telephone number to complete the transaction. Perhaps a customer’s expectation is to schedule an appointment at 2:30 and the services starts at 2:30. I think it is a reasonable expectation for a customer to be able to complete a sentence before the sales associate interrupts with a question.
So, before you can exceed expectations, you need to be able to meet them. The only way to meet them is to drill down, ask the right questions, and think like a customer. When I was training sales associates, I always made the new employees go mystery shop elsewhere, to see the purchase experience from our competition, and see what it felt like to be a customer. It is impossible to meet a customer’s experience without knowing the possible frustration firsthand that they may feel.
Once you’ve met the customer expectations, then, and only then, can you try to exceed them.
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