Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing expectations, part of Customer Service Foundations (2014).
Outstanding customer service is defined as service that exceeds your customer's expectations. Sometimes, this is relatively easy to do when your customer doesn't expect much, and your normal service level already surpasses what they're expecting. At other times, customers' expectations can be impossibly high to meet. Customer service professionals often have opportunities to help their customers set appropriate expectations. This helps the customer avoid feeling disappointed when their expectations aren't met.
And it can give you a better opportunity to delight your customer. I'd like to share a few tips for managing customer expectations. You may want to download the worksheet and track which techniques you've used already, as well as identify a few new techniques you'd like to try. The first tip focuses on new customers. New customer expectations are often influenced by their experience with other companies like yours. Does your company do anything unique or unusual? If so, take a moment to explain the ropes to a new customer, so they'll know up front what to expect.
For example, employees at a tire store spend a few minutes with each new customer explaining what's included with a new set of tires. They also explain that there's an extra fee for an alignment, so customers don't assume that's included. The next tip, focus on processes. Take a moment to explain processes and procedures to customers so they know exactly what to expect. Employees working for a luggage manufacturer take a moment to describe the repair process when a customer wants to send in a suitcase to be fixed.
The process takes longer than most customers realize, but the company also has a loaner suitcase available so customers aren't inconvenienced. The third tip focuses on time. We often have to give customers a timeframe for something to happen. It's usually presented as a best and worst case scenario. For example, the luggage repair takes two to four weeks. Unfortunately, customers tend to hear the best case scenario and they forget the worst case. So if their suitcase hasn't been repaired in two weeks, they'll start to get anxious, even though it's well within the usual timeframe.
A better approach is to just give the worst case scenario and tell the customer it can take up to four weeks. This helps avoid potential disappointment if it takes the full four weeks to complete the repair. If the suitcase is repaired sooner, the luggage manufacturer has the opportunity to pleasantly surprise the customer by letting them know it's done early. The fourth tip focuses on responsiveness. Let's say you need to do a little research for a customer and then call them back. Many customer service reps will say something like, I'll get back to you right away.
The potential problem is right away might mean one day, but the customer thinks it means one hour. It's better to give customers a more specific timeframe to avoid misunderstandings. I'll get back to you by this time tomorrow is much more specific than I'll get back to you right away. The final tip is to tell the truth. It can be tempting to prolong sharing bad news with a customer because you don't want to upset them, but avoiding the truth can make them even more upset in the long run. For instance, a loan officer at a bank might be tempted to submit a customer's loan application that she knows will not be approved.
This way, the bank's underwriting department can be the bad guys when the customer's application is rejected. However, this tactic can backfire since the customer could end up feeling misled in addition to feeling rejected because they didn't get the loan. A better strategy for the loan officer would be telling the customer honestly that their chances for approval were slim, and then make some alternative suggestions. The customer may still feel rejected, but at least they won't face an unexpected and unpleasant surprise on top of it. Remember that customers are happier when service meets or exceeds their expectations.
Clearly communicating with your customers can help them avoid being disappointed when their expectations don't match the service you're able to provide.
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- What is outstanding customer service?
- Identifying your customer
- Creating a customer service vision
- Enhancing likability in person, over the phone, and via email
- Actively listening to customers
- Going the extra mile
- Taking ownership of problems
- Diffusing angry customers
- Using data to evaluate and improve your customer service<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.