Failure to appropriately manage customer expectations can cause customers to experience unpleasant surprises. See an example of what happens when service falls short of customer expectations and think of ways to prevent this from happening. Unpleasant surprises can also cause additional problems for your business, such as increased contacts, increased escalations, and negative word of mouth.
- Customers experience an unpleasant surprise when their experience falls short of their expectations. Here's an example. Imagine a customer goes online to order a scarf. He pays for two day shipping, so that it'll arrive in time to give as a gift at a party he's attending. What the customer doesn't know is the company's using a new supplier, and this scarf they're actually selling doesn't match the scarf that's shown on their website. Let's see the customer's reaction when the order arrives. Try to imagine the emotions this customer might be feeling.
- No, you're not listening. I finally got my order, but it's the wrong color. This is not the color I ordered, and I was supposed to give it as a gift tonight, but now I can't do anything with this. What do you want me to do wash my car with it? - Wow, I wouldn't want to be the person who took that call. This customer was obviously very angry. The reason he was upset had to do with an experience that was full of unpleasant surprises. He expected the scarf to arrive in the color he ordered, but it didn't. He expected to be able to give the scarf as a gift that evening, but now he couldn't.
He didn't expect to spend time contacting customer service, but now he had to take time out of his busy day to handle the problem. This problem happened because nobody checked to make sure the new shipment of scarves matched what was shown on the website. Now if the scarf caused an unpleasant surprise for one customer, it's very likely that other customers will have a similar reaction. That's where a customer service manager can help customers avoid unpleasant surprises by managing expectations.
I occasionally encountered this problem when I was a customer service manager for a company that sold imported collectibles. We sometimes received shipments that didn't quite look the same as the products in our catalog. A process that worked well was to contact customers as soon as we learned about the problem. We would send them pictures of the actual product to see if they were still interested or offer them some alternatives. The goal was to agree on a solution that worked best for the customer and helped them avoid an unpleasant surprise. Now sometimes customers were unhappy and canceled their order, but most of the time customers appreciated the proactive approach and worked with us to make an alternative selection.
One last note, we also made sure we updated the picture on our website with one that matched the actual product. Now, let's look at some ways that an unpleasant surprise can have a negative impact on your customer service operation. You will likely get an increase in contacts from customers wanting to know the status of their situation or complaining about an unpleasant surprise. You'll probably get an increase in escalations, where customers wanna talk to a supervisor because they're really upset.
Customer satisfaction declines when customers receive unpleasant surprises. Customer loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals also decline, since customers start to lose trust in your brand and are likely to complain about it to people they know. These are just a few examples. Take a moment to think about ways that unpleasant surprises can negatively impact your business. Throughout this course, I'm going to share expectation management strategies that you can use to help avoid these problems.