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Sometimes, meeting expectations is a perfect experience. | Source: Alexa Joy/Adobe Stock
Sometimes, meeting expectations is a perfect experience. | Source: Alexa Joy/Adobe Stock

It’s 'out of our control’ is not a good enough excuse!

Your business doesn’t always need to go ‘above and beyond’ to succeed. SHEP HYKEN discusses managing customer expectations.

At a recent customer service presentation, the speaker who preceded me said that we must do better than simply meeting our customers’ expectations, and he shared some stories of genuinely amazing service experiences.

When it was my turn to speak, I didn’t want to contradict him, but I needed the audience to understand that it is impossible to go above and beyond with customers at every interaction.

Sometimes, meeting expectations is a perfect experience. I talk about ‘managing the moment’ in my customer service keynote speeches.

The idea comes from Volvo CEO Jan Carlson. Customers' interaction with you or your business allows you to form an impression. Understanding this idea is a start to developing and maintaining your customer service strategy.

You must manage expectations, and if you are even the tiniest bit above average in doing what customers expect, your customers will love you, give you high ratings, and refer you to their friends.

"I believe you must manage expectations, and if you are even the tiniest bit above average in doing what customers expect, your customers will love you, give you high ratings, and refer you to their colleagues and friends."

The key to being successful with this idea is to be consistent. You want customers to say things like, “they are always knowledgeable,” or “they are always so helpful.” The word always followed by something positive, typically an expectation, is what you’re going for in reviews.

So, back to the idea of just meeting expectations. Some people confuse expectations with hope. Here’s what I mean by this. If I call someone for help and leave a message, I expect them to call me back, and I hope they will return the call sooner rather than later.

Let’s say I’m called back within an hour. I’m pleasantly surprised because the person met my expectation of the callback and did it in the timeframe I hoped they would – maybe even a little sooner.

Most customers won’t analyse the experience this way, but it is precisely what they want – or hope for. They will, however, notice that the call was returned quickly and may say, “thanks for calling me back so quickly.”

The returned call was expected. The comment about ‘quickly’ indicates their expectations were met or slightly exceeded. And if you do that every time, the customer will use the always when they talk about you and describe the experience by saying, “They always call me back quickly.”

Let’s flip this around. Most customers hope for a great experience, but not necessarily an over-the-top or above-and-beyond experience.

Unfortunately, they don't have high expectations based on their typical experience with service laggards. So, whenever you meet or just ever so slightly exceed what your customers hope for, you’ve created a positive experience that gets them to say, “I’ll be back!”

It’s out of our control!

I was recently in Las Vegas for a major convention. I stayed at a very nice hotel, and each night, I tried to fall and stay asleep.

"Most customers hope for a great experience, but not necessarily an over-the-top or above-and-beyond experience."

I emphasise the word tried because, unfortunately, there was non-stop, 24-hour-a-day road construction outside the hotel as the city of Las Vegas is preparing for the Formula One race later this year. All night, there was jackhammering and bulldozing on the streets where the cars will be racing. Upon checkout, I was asked, “How was your stay?”

I responded, “I love this hotel. It’s too bad about all that noise from the road construction.” The front desk employee practically cut me off and curtly stated, “It’s out of our control.”

Of course, I knew it wasn’t the hotel’s fault. I didn’t blame them, but she quickly pointed that out anyway. I can only imagine how many similar complaints she has heard from numerous guests over the past few weeks and will hear from many more until the project is over. She had become annoyed by hearing the same complaint repeatedly and somehow lost sympathy for her guests.

So, how do you communicate something that’s “out of your control?” Here are a few ideas using the hotel as an example:

  • Respond with empathy: Respond to every comment about it with sympathy and empathy. Act as though you care.
  • Apologise: It may not have been your fault, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say, “I’m sorry this happened,” which is how I ended the empathy statement above.
  • Be proactive: If enough customers are complaining about something entirely out of your control and you know the problem will continue, proactively inform them.
  • Create a solution: This may or may not be possible. In this example, the hotel could offer free earplugs. While it’s not their fault and is out of their control, they could show a sign of effort to manage the problem, even if it isn’t the perfect solution.

A problem may be out of your control. That’s okay! Using “it’s out of my control” as an excuse is not okay.

Instead, see it as an opportunity to show empathy and care for your customers. It’s the words you use and the way you tell them that counts.

More reading:
Sales tips you can apply to everyday life
Six big ideas to increase sales
Great customer experience: steps to woo your audience
Simple and effective ways to boost your word-of-mouth referrals
Key marketing and PR predictions for the year ahead

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is a speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author who works with companies to build loyal relationships with customers and employees. Visit: hyken.com

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