When a brand has existed for any length of time, interacting with customers may seem like business as usual. But as more and more organizations make the successful shift to a customer centric approach, it’s becoming clear that every interaction is an opportunity to exceed customer expectations, build loyalty and generate word-of-mouth.
However, while many organizations would certainly love to go the extra mile for their customers, with the daily grind it can feel difficult enough to keep them even somewhat satisfied. So how exactly can a brand consistently exceed customer expectations without placing undue stress on the organization and employees?
As leading customer experience management firm nanorep says in their guide to exceeding customer expectations of service, day in and day out brands are constantly making the choice to either fail to meet expectations, meet expectations, or exceed expectations, whether they realize it or not.
Get to know your customers, inside and out
Truly knowing who your customers are requires knowing customers’ logistical expectations as well as their emotional expectations. The logistical expectations of customers consist of aspects such as performance and features of a product or service, what they’re willing to pay for that product, and how quickly they want orders to arrive. These are important expectations for a business to know, meet or – optimally – exceed. When it comes to customer expectations, however, there are always opportunities to push those happy customer experiences further and create a connection between a person and a brand. That’s where emotional expectations come in.
In order to begin to understand customers’ emotional expectations, a brand needs to identify the key moments in every transaction and interaction as well as the corresponding expectations. Think about a customer calling to register a complaint about a product. Key moments may include:
- Connecting to a customer service representative (how long does he have to wait?)
- Explaining his issue (does he feel like he’s being heard, understood and taken seriously?)
- Being offered a solution to the problem (does he think it’s adequate? Will it actually solve the problem?)
- Having his importance as a customer reaffirmed (is the company offering anything extra to make up for the inconvenience he’s faced? Are they giving him a reason to stick with them?)
By exceeding the expectations felt in these moments – and in the key moments of every interaction – a brand can inspire an emotional connection that creates a relationship and fosters loyalty. Even what starts out as a negative situation can become an opportunity for customer service excellence and increased customer trust.
Get consistent and stay that way
Exceeding customer expectations requires consistency. There’s no way around it. While it may be tempting for a brand to put the biggest emphasis on first impressions, a brand needs to work as hard for a customer making their fiftieth purchase as they do for a customer making their first.
Knowing they're going to get excellent service with every transaction and interaction is what inspires customers’ return business as well as referral business. After all, how many people recommend a business unless they were sure the person they were recommending it to was going to be impressed? Not too many.
Get used to going the extra mile
When it comes right down to it, exceeding expectations means going above and beyond. It means making a customer feel special. Not just respected and appreciated, but truly cared for. Nanorep mentions Zappos, who according to their own return policies would have been within their rights to deny a return to a woman who missed the return window. However, the woman missed the window because she was dealing with the death of her mother. Displaying incredible empathy, Zappos told her they would accept the return, arranged for UPS to pick up the package so she wouldn’t have to deal with the logistics, and then sent the woman flowers. Forget word of mouth marketing, this kind of customer care goes fully viral, and deservedly so, building a brand reputation that becomes the stuff of legend.
As an ancient proverb says, perception is two parts heart, one part brain. This can be extrapolated to mean that two-thirds of how a customer views a brand is shaped by how that brand makes them feel, while the remaining one-third is shaped by how the business actually performs.