Want Customers? Meet Their Expectations
Monday, November 09, 2015
by Kelly Weaver, Small Business Development Center Regional Director
Customer loyalty is not a given. If you want to get and keep customers you must meet (or exceed) their expectations. Whenever we make a purchase of any kind, we enter the transaction with certain expectations. For instance, when we walk into a restaurant, we expect to be seated and have our order taken within a certain period of time; we expect our order to be correct and properly prepared when delivered. If our expectations are exceeded, we are happy; if they are not met, we are dissatisfied.
Businesses that are successful not only understand their customers’ expectations but are proactive in managing those expectations. They understand that a customer’s expectations are based on a lifetime of experiences, not just their business’s interaction with the customer.
Here are some simple steps to help manage your customers’ expectations and create a better experience and stronger relationship with those customers.
- Understand the base expectations. Brainstorm all the things a customer expects in their interaction with you. Think about how your competitor’s actions might impact those expectations. If expectations are unrealistic, think about what can be done to change (educate) the customer’s expectations.
- Influence expectations. Communicate with your customer to influence their expectations. The goal is to make promises high enough to motivate the customer to do business with you but realistic enough that you can consistently deliver on those promises.
- Product/service performance. Many companies tend to focus mainly on the customer’s expectation of the performance and quality of the product or service. Even this can be improved by such things as effective use of complaints to make improvements to the product or soliciting customer feedback prior to marketing a product.
- The company experience. Beyond what many might refer to as ‘customer service’, great companies put effort into training their staff to handle customer complaints positively and give them resources to solve problems on the front lines. They collect and use information from customer complaints to improve their company processes and products. Companies create a consistent experience customers can rely on time and again.
- Post purchase reinforcement. Only 4% of customers with problems will complain to you. Contacting the customer after the sale gives you the chance to learn more about how your product or service is (or is not) meeting the customers’ needs and correct any problems early on. While solidifying your relationship with the customer, it may even open the door for additional or repeat sales.
While none of this information is revolutionary, it is surprising how little most companies invest in such strategies. Take a proactive stance in managing your customers’ expectations and you will reap the rewards of better customer relations and a stronger company.
Kelly Weaver is the Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center in Aberdeen which offers free, confidential business consulting to start up and existing businesses. She can be reached at (605) 626-2565 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Center is hosted by GROW South Dakota. More information on these concepts can be found in “HyperGrow Your Business” by Curtis Clinkinbeard.
Category: GROW SD