Exceeding Expectations: Creating a Great Customer Experience Every Time

exceeding customer expectations

Exceeding Expectations: Creating a Great Customer Experience Every Time

Exceeding expectations is certainly easier when you and your team are allowed to set or reset what customers should expect. However, the opportunity to underpromise is not always available or easy; and it shouldn’t drive your overall strategy for becoming a CX juggernaut.

In fact, customer interactions where it’s not possible or practical to underpromise are common – they happen every day in every business.

The Five-Minute Wait

Is a five-minute wait short or long?

Certainly, the answer depends on the circumstances. Waiting five minutes for a waiter in a busy restaurant to bring the pre-dinner drinks to your party of six is nothing. Waiting five minutes for a hotel clerk to stop chatting on the phone to acknowledge and greet you as you balance your luggage directly in front of them soaking wet from the pouring rain outside is excruciating.

In the former instance, you’re pleased – even if you don’t fully notice and appreciate the efficient service right away. In the latter, you’re enraged. Yet in both instances your wait was exactly five minutes.

Surely, these scenarios present a clear cause and effect of delivering a great customer experience. In the former, the restaurant is off to a good start. Provided they get the rest of the meal right, they could earn a five-star online review without doing anything extraordinary. In the latter, everything else about this hotel stay could be routine or even above average, and some are still likely to leave them a scathing one-star online review.

These examples are transparent. It doesn’t require a deep investigation to determine what went right at the restaurant or what went wrong at the hotel. Your expectations, whether you were aware of them or not, were exceeded at the restaurant and missed at the hotel.

Exceeding Customer Expectations

Getting the little things right the first time puts you on a path towards exceeding customer expectations – even if everything else you do is merely good.

Exceeding expectations is not always about providing a Ritz-Carlton-esque experience. It’s not about balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling or rolling out a red carpet or putting the customer’s name in lights, it’s about starting the customer on a path towards wanting to like you, and then merely delivering a good experience.

Let’s change the earlier scenarios a bit.

Let’s say you and your five friends at the restaurant expected your drinks sooner as you watched the waiter chatting up a coworker. Because the waiter took five minutes to bring them to you, he missed your expectations. It’s likely the restaurant also missed getting a five-star review from you even if they got the rest of the meal right.

What happened in the first five minutes failed to meet your expectations, so you’re more likely to be critical of the service delivered thereafter.

At the hotel, what if the clerk told you as you walked in that she was on the phone with her mother who was watching her three kids? One of her kids has diabetes, and she needed to give her mother instructions for injecting the child with insulin. Further, she told you this might take “a while.”

Do you see how your reaction to the service you receive at the hotel would change instantly? Do you suspect that if the rest of the stay was just routine you might give them a good review?

Customer expectations are all that matter. The level of service in both scenarios remained unchanged, yet because of your expectations, the perceived level of service received did change, didn’t it?

Exceeding expectations – where you deliver an 8 when the customer expected a 7 – often comes down to the first interaction.

Because the restaurant failed (even though they didn’t know it) on their first interaction, they’d now have to change your mindset – your direction if you will – after the drinks were delivered if their goal was to exceed your expectations.

Conversely, the hotel only needs to be average for the remainder of your stay for this to be a good customer experience.

Changing a customer’s mindset is like turning a large ship in the ocean. Once the customer experience direction is established, it takes a lot to energy to reverse course.

Sometimes, Meeting is Exceeding

There are some industries – automotive repair, for example – where simply meeting expectations can be considered a five-star customer experience. The same is true for any industry where the average practitioners are not known for communicating well and/or meeting deadlines.

If this describes the reality for your industry, then we have great news! Simply meeting expectations will often be viewed as delivering a great customer experience. To achieve this, you only need to focus on four key areas:

  1. Expect/Respect the Customer. If you set appointments with customers, then don’t act surprised when they arrive five minutes early. Instead, expect them. Moreover, respect them and their time. This might mean greeting them by name, though it always means never making them repeat whatever it is they told you when they set their appointment.
  2. Communicate Expectations Clearly. What does “We’ll get to your vehicle right away” mean to your service team? More importantly, what does this mean to your customer? If you think “right away” means 30-45 minutes, then tell the customer, “30 to 45 minutes.”
  3. Communicate When Necessary. Keeping the customer informed is something customer-first companies routinely accomplish. However, because of the reputation in your industry, you likely just need to let the customer know when something material has changed. (By the way, there’s a clear benefit for most industries to keep their customers informed. Beyond avoiding the negative experience you’ll deliver if you fail to meet expectations, by providing regular updates you’ll reduce the amount of labor needed to handle inbound inquiries from customers seeking more information.)
  4. Meet Aligned Expectations. More simply: Keep your word. If you promised your customer you would arrive at their home between 10:00 and 10:15, then be there between 10:00 and 10:15. For home repair and cable/utility companies, this would be viewed as exceeding their expectations.

This is the ninth post in a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.

Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!