The business would be nothing without your customers, and in a world of online interactions and reviews that can go viral, ensuring that you match or exceed customer expectations is absolutely critical for the survival of your business. Building a business based on authenticity and honesty will ensure that your business is better able to cope with the changing tides and external forces, such as we have seen with this global health pandemic.
What Are Customer Expectations?
Your customers expect a certain level of service from you, but how do they know what service to expect if you have never set their expectations in the first place?
For example, if your business sells products that come from overseas and they take three weeks to arrive, your customers will be fine about waiting three weeks if they know that is the delivery date. If you were to tell your customers to expect their products within a few days and it takes nearly a month, this is when customers begin to get upset, and it’s something that is easily avoidable.
Customer expectations, in general, are to have a speedy service that is available when they need it and for high-quality products to arrive when they expect them. If you can meet most of those expectations, you should be doing well, but there are a few more things that you could do to improve your customer expectations and improve your customer experience.
Be Proactive With Customer Service
When it comes to customer service, nothing beats a proactive attitude to support, especially online, where your reputation can change on a diam. The difference between reactive vs proactive support is in how you notice and manage issues, specifically, before they become an issue for your customers. This kind of customer service means you can build a more trusting relationship with your customers and ensure that you filter out anything that could cause problems in the future.
Being proactive when it comes to customer service is important for businesses of the future, and your customers will come to expect a level of service that you can be proud of.
Be Honest About Timeframes and Requirements
No one likes to hang around for anything, especially if you’ve been told to expect something on a certain day or at a certain time and it doesn’t arrive.
The key to managing expectations when it comes to timeframes is to be honest, even to the point of sometimes slightly overestimating how long something will take. Usually, people would prefer a product to arrive earlier than later!
If your business is a service business, however, you need to be on time with your delivery. If you are booked for an appointment at 12 pm, don’t turn up at five past 12, and don’t turn up five minutes to twelve either.
Being on time and within the agreed timeframes will help to build your credibility and keep customers loyal.
This is especially true for project work too, and project work that may require outside agencies to work with you. No one wants to be waiting around for your business to finish the agreed part of the project. Those kinds of delays give a bad impression and will negatively affect your reputation.
Keep Up With The Communication
Another one that is applicable more to project work than anything else is the importance of communication. It’s best to agree on a level of communication with your client beforehand rather than try to work it out afterward. If your client is expecting an email update every 4 hours and you only usually update once a week, you’re going to have an issue!
Everyone’s communication requirements are different. Some people like to have constant updates and be kept in the loop as much as possible, whereas others are happy with sending in a deadline and a brief and not expecting to hear from you until it’s time for the project to come to an end.
The crucial thing to remember is to agree with your customer beforehand what level of communication (and method of communication) they would prefer.
Respond Quickly If Things Change
Things can change at the turn of a hat, and sometimes delays are inevitable. The difference comes with how you deal with the changes and how you communicate them to your customers.
If you can see a bottleneck or a delay coming, tell your customer and work with them for a solution as soon as possible. It’s much better all-around if there’s enough time to plan and change course.
For customers expecting an end product, a delay might be an inconvenience but something they can live with, but for customers expecting a service or product part of a chain, not knowing about the potential issue can cause major problems for them and, in turn, major problems for you when it comes to your reputation.
Spot the issues before they arrive, and be ready to adapt your working practices and methods of delivery to ensure that your customers are kept in the loop, and if all else fails, make sure you communicate every step of the way!
That old business joke of “I’m hearing problems and not solutions” is very true here! It’s a bit of a trope in the HR world, but in reality, it does make a big difference to be given problems rather than solutions.
In the real world, problems and issues will pop up, but the way you handle them and work around them will be a testament to your business, and it may follow you reputationally if you don’t handle the changes well.
Give Customers Options Wherever Possible
The very last tip on this list is to give customers options wherever possible. The caveat to this is to not give them too many options, as decision paralysis is a bad affliction! Give as many options as is necessary to get the job done and a deadline for when you need an answer. This should be enough to keep most customers in most situations happy.