12 Tips on Meeting Customer Expectations
How can you exceed customer expectations? First you need to know what their expectations are. When it comes to expecting certain performance and functionality from your product or service, you need to make sure you can deliver on the “speeds and feeds” that you sold your customers. However, there are more basic expectations that are not related to your product or service that need to be met, or even exceeded. More deals are lost because, in spite of how great your product may be, the customer’s basic needs were not met.
So, what are these customer expectations? What do customers really want? Here are 12 things that customers want. I even threw in a bonus tip. How well do you, or your sales team, deliver on these customer needs?
1. Friendliness – Most people are basically friendly. And most people want to be treated in a friendly manner. When purchasing something or requiring customer service from a vendor or supplier, we’ve all been treated like the enemy at one time or another. No one likes that. It creates an adversarial environment – one that promotes antagonism, hostility and even anger.
2. Empathy – When I need help in purchasing an item or when I call a company because of a problem with their product, I want them to show a little empathy, or understanding. I want them to put themselves in my situation so they can understand my situation – walk in my shoes. When I call with a complaint, treat me as a customer with a difficulty, not as a difficult customer.
3. Fairness – I also want to be treated fairly. That doesn’t mean I’ll always get what I want. Sometimes what I want is not possible, feasible or reasonable. If the return policy is that I’ll get store credit if I don’t have a receipt, that doesn’t mean I should expect to get cash in return instead. That makes perfect sense to me. However, it also shouldn’t mean that I have to have the receipt in order to get a store credit for a faulty product.
4. Control – I want to feel like I am in control. If you make me feel like I’m being manipulated or abused because of your silly policies or procedures, then you’re not meeting my expectations. If you make my purchase a difficult series of contracts, actions and transactions, then I’m going to go somewhere where I feel like I’m in control of what’s going on.
5. Alternatives – I want to have choices. If I return a product that is broken or faulty, but you no longer carry that product, I don’t want to hear that I have no choice but to buy a new one because the old one is no longer an option. I want you to give me some creative alternatives I can choose from, ones that are fair for both me and you.
6. Information – I can’t make an intelligent decision unless I have the facts and information in order to do so. So give me information about what’s going on and what I’m purchasing. I want to know what you’re doing, whom you’re speaking to when you disappear, what outcomes I could expect and anything else that keeps this transaction from being a mystery, so I can make an intelligent decision when the time comes.
7. Fair price for a quality product – When it comes right down to it, doesn’t it make plain sense that customers should receive a quality product or service for a fair price? Of course it does. But why does this become so difficult at times. I paid good money for your product and it’s not performing the way you advertised it. So give me my money back or make it work the way you marketed it. I just want to pay a fair price for a quality product. Simple enough, right?
8. To be respected – Don’t treat me like a fool. Don’t act like I’m stupid. Don’t discount what I have to say. I want to be treated with respect. I’m a human being who’s trying to purchase your product, or one who has a problem with your product that needs resolution, and I shouldn’t be treated with disrespect just because I’m cutting into your phone conversation with your girlfriend or because you think I should already have all the answers. Show respect and you’ll earn my respect back.
9. To be heard – I really hate when this happens. Me: “I want to purchase a ticket from Las Vegas to Dallas, then from Dallas to Austin, then back to Las Vegas. But I need to be in Austin by Friday night.” Reservations Agent: “Ok. Where will you be departing from?” Did he not hear me at all? Of course he didn’t. And I know I’ll have to repeat every single step over again, very slowly and very carefully, so I don’t end up in Peoria. Agents somehow over-think the problem and make it more complex. Why? Because they aren’t listening to you. They may be hearing what you said, but they aren’t listening to what you meant. Listening skills are deficient in our society, yet this is a very important expectation for customers.
10. Someone to understand my needs – This is a close kin to empathy. It’s a step further, though, since it means that I want someone to own my problem. If I ask a sales person for help, I don’t want to be dumped on someone else. I want the first person to own the problem for at least as long as it takes to make sure I was left in the right hands in which I was handed off.
11. Someone I can trust – When you say you’ll get back to me, you’d better get back to me. When you say you’ll handle my request, it better be handled. When you say your product will do something, it better do it. Otherwise, I will lose trust in you. When you start building trust with your customers, then you are also building respect.
12. Satisfaction – Ultimately, I want satisfaction. All the previous items will help make me satisfied because they will make for a purchase or service experience that delivered what I want in a respectful, fair, trusting and understanding way. And once I am treated that way and satisfied, I will start to become loyal to you and come back to purchase again in the future.
Bonus: Surprise me! – Go a step above what you promised and what I expect. It’s so rare that we have the opportunity to tell positive stories about a complex purchase or a challenging customer service experience. Any one of us can come up with a dozen bad stories. But the good stories, where we were surprised by someone going above and beyond our expectations, are oh so rare. Try making these stories a common occurrence with your customers. Exceed my expectations by surprising me with an outstanding experience.
About the author:
Russ Lombardo, President & Founder of PEAK Sales Consulting, is a nationally recognized Sales and CRM consultant, speaker, trainer, and author. Russ works with sales organizations and management who want to increase their sales results by acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. As a speaker, Russ presents sales training seminars and customer retention workshops as well as keynote and conference speeches to dozens of audiences every year. He is the author of five books on Sales and CRM.