What is the biggest challenge to exceeding customer expectations?
Why would you want to exceed customer expectations? Think about it from another perspective.
If one of your suppliers doesn’t give you what you want you will stop using them.
If a supplier just gives you what you want you will carry on using them but if something better comes along you will switch at the drop of a hat.
If one of your suppliers exceeds your expectations you will become loyal to them and a competitor would have to offer a lot for you to even think of switching.
Now which type of supplier do you want to be to your customers?
- Someone not meeting expectations?
- Only just meeting them?
- Exceeding them? Can you see the financial implications of each of the three examples?
What are customer expectations?
what-is-the-biggest-challenge-to-exceeding-customer-expectationsCustomer expectations are set partly by the industry you are in and partly by what you promised in your marketing & sales communications. There are also implied promises – those that competitors offer or are the standard in the industry.
There are explicit promises made by your marketing and sales people depending on your route to market. These promises could be in the form of documentation on a package, sales literature, advertising, press releases or you, website. Promises could also be what your sales rep or business partner tells your customers and you have to uphold them.
Understand customer expectations.
The first step is to do research to find out what your customers want and what your competitors offer. How can you meet or exceed customer expectations if you do not know what they want? Do not make assumptions on what your customers want as you could be setting yourself up for failure. I remember one of my clients thought their key customer’s concern was price. When we interviewed them we found out price was not an issue at all. Their concern was quality of personnel. All this time my client had been literally giving money away by needlessly offering discounts and bargain prices!
Clearly define the customer experience and quantify it.
Before you even think about how you are going to meet customer expectations you need vision, leadership and communication. Remember the bottle neck is at the top of the bottle, so if you don’t have executive support up front you will have problems down the road.
I find the biggest inhibitor is that senior management or boardrooms often understand the business value of having a reputation for delivering a great customer experience, but simply don’t get it when it comes to achieving the culture needed to deliver. For example Finance will annoyingly ask for the return on investment.
We need to go back to a more balanced approach between customer requirements and what your company can make money out of selling. How about a new ultimate goal such as: “Resetting the expectations in customers’ minds and ensuring that your company can deliver but your competitors can’t”. The difference may be subtle to some but it changes attitudes and the components of your strategy dramatically.
Getting the strategy agreed is very difficult and justifying it in hard business terms to people other than the marketing types a real challenge. Implementing it successfully is even harder.
Now that you know what your customers want and what management is willing to support write it down and put numbers to it. If you cannot quantify something you cannot measure it and therefore you cannot manage it.
Aim for consistency first.
Before you begin to innovate your service levels must be consistent regardless of the employee or the situation. You must meet customer expectations consistently so every time someone interacts with you their expectations will be met. Once you meet customer expectations every time then you can start thinking of exceeding them.
The scary thing is frontline staff are often the lowest paid people in the company with the least power to change their environment. And they heavily influence your future revenue streams.
If they are badly managed, feel angry at your company, or are chosen for the wrong reasons they can very quickly dry up future revenue by giving such a bad experience that your customers seek out your competitors.
Your frontline staff can be as customer focused as possible, but if the other departments don’t support them or understand their importance you will not exceed customer expectations.
Frontline staff must be both trained and empowered to set the appropriate expectations for each service event and any additional factors that may impact the experience.
This allows you to keep the newness and excitement in the experience, not only for customers, but also for employees, it makes their job interesting and different on a daily basis rather than the same old boring job. Employees in boring jobs will portray that boredom to their customers who will look for alternatives. Only aim at surprising customers once you have mastered the service delivery consistently.
Companies organise themselves around efficiencies but these efficiencies are often not effective if your company is designed around the company silos where the bottom levels of one silo cannot talk directly to the bottom levels of the next silo in the value chain without going through their bosses and their bosses’ bosses. The company should be designed around the work flow. The work flow should be designed around your customers’ needs and how they interact with your company.
Proper change management mechanism.
All companies have staff turnover, your requirements change as processes evolve, and people move in and out of different departments. Unless a proper change management mechanism is adhered to, it just leaves dissatisfied teams everywhere.
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