Keeping Customers Informed: How Realigning Customer Expectations Drives Greater Customer Satisfaction
Keeping Customers Informed: How Realigning Customer Expectations Drives Greater Customer Satisfaction
Managing customer expectations is not just about setting them properly, it’s also about realigning the customer’s expectations as the situation warrants. Think of this as a series of minor course corrections in the customer’s mind – keep you informed, the third deliverable of customer-first companies, is often all about this realignment.
Examining the Amazon customer communication cadence provides a good example of this. You place an order; you get an email and/or an app notification. Your order ships; you get an email and/or an app notification. Your order is delivered; you know the rest… Plus, you can track your order at any time with just a couple of clicks. Amazon keeps you informed throughout, and this makes for a better customer experience.
Rarely does Amazon have to realign your expectations. However, when an order is delayed, Amazon does an above average job of resetting your Customer Clock. (We only rate them above average because Amazon is often at the mercy of organizations with less than perfect order tracking; for example, the US Postal Service.) What Amazon does exceptionally well here – and what your organization should work to achieve – is they alert you as soon as they know there is a delay. Of course, it’s their technology that does this, and your company is relying on human beings, right?
This is an area of opportunity for creating a better customer experience for most teams. Customer service issues that arise from not keeping customers informed is just a self-inflicted wound – avoiding these issues is, of course, ridiculously simple.
This begs the question: If it’s so ridiculously simple, why do frontline employees (and their bosses) so often fail at this? There are two primary reasons: they either don’t understand the importance of realigning expectations or they’re too afraid to deliver bad news to their customers. For example:
- An automotive parts clerk discovers a custom-order part is going to take two weeks longer than originally promised. Rather than call or message the customer immediately, the clerk waits until the customer calls asking about the status of their part (which was originally scheduled to arrive yesterday).
- A restaurant server realizes the kitchen made an error with an order for a table of four. They prepared three orders correctly but added onions to a dish where the guest specifically requested no onions. Rather than let the table know what happened and give them the option of getting three of the meals now and the other in 7-8 minutes, she lets the guests know “it will be just another minute” on their order.
- A computer repair shop has an employee out sick for a week and won’t be able to complete the promised repairs to a customer’s laptop in time. Rather than call or message the customer with an updated status, they allow the customer to come in on the scheduled pick-up day only to have to tell her the repairs will take another week.
- A crewmember on an airline is unreachable when she doesn’t arrive for her flight (meaning the flight will not depart on time and no one can say for certain when it will depart). Rather than immediately letting the waiting passengers know the truth and resetting their expectations for an hour or longer delay, the gate agent waits until the flight’s departure is already more than 30 minutes behind schedule and announces that one of the crewmembers was running late, though they expect to begin boarding “shortly.”
In all these instances, the respective frontline employees had an opportunity to realign expectations – that is, to reset the Customer Clock – yet they put it off or used vague language only to create potentially larger customer service issues later.
Keep them informed.
As soon as you know there’s an issue or potential issue that will change the customer’s original expectation.
If you’re looking for a way to explain this to your frontline folks, you might want to use the Band-Aid idiom. That is, explain to them that “ripping off the Band-Aid” might cause some quick, momentary pain (the customer will be unhappy to hear her laptop won’t be ready Friday), though it will avoid the longer duration of even greater pain later (the customer might be livid when she arrives on Friday only to learn her laptop wasn’t repaired).
Domino’s Pizza Tracker
Regardless of how you feel about their pizza or whether you believe (as some do) that it’s mostly just a placebo, the Domino’s Tracker does a good job of managing the Customer Clock by keeping hungry patrons informed as their pizza journeys from Pam taking the order to Kevin preparing their pizza and putting it in the oven to Angela completing the quality check before Jim heads out to deliver the pie.
The old days of wondering, “Where’s my pizza?” and becoming increasingly unhappy as the minutes ticked by are gone. Domino’s keeps customers informed, and this creates a better customer experience and better brand perception. (It also reduces the number of inbound calls their restaurants receive from customers inquiring about the status of their orders.)
Of course, it’s not just Dominos. Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, and DoorDash (just to name a few) also provide constant, real-time updates via their apps. By being able to track a driver’s progress – whether he’s coming to pick you up to take you to the airport or she’s got your delicious Korean barbeque order – customers have less anxiety and/or frustration about the service they’re paying for and depending on.
Their Customer Clocks are continually being reset to match reality, simply because these apps keep them informed in real time.
If you’re a regular user of food delivery apps, you’ve likely experienced a similar situation to ones we’ve encountered with DoorDash. On a recent business trip, Steve was eager to get a meal from a local, family owned restaurant delivered to his hotel. He chose an interesting dish from a highly rated small restaurant that DoorDash claimed could be delivered in under 30 minutes. Once the order was placed, the app showed the order would arrive at his hotel in 27 minutes. Steve was pleased.
Forty-four minutes later, his order arrived. To be clear, the delivery took 63% longer than the app first promised. However, he was still quite pleased, and at no time did he wonder about the status of his order. DoorDash kept him informed via real-time updates; and while Steve found himself eating a little later than he originally had expected, he thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the service the Dasher provided. The DoorDash app continually realigned his expectations and reset his Customer Clock.
Imagine if there was no tracking provided to DoorDash customers? How popular would DoorDash or other food delivery apps be if they were just slightly more convenient than calling the restaurant directly to place a delivery order? Their ability to keep you informed is a major reason for their adoption and continued use, though most of their customers surely don’t even think about how much they love this feature; they just know they had a good experience.
Of course, the DoorDash app and the Domino’s Tracker are technology-driven solutions addressing the need to keep customers informed. For you and your team, applications like these might be impractical, unnecessary, or years away. Moreover, even if you’re lucky enough to have technology solutions in place that help you keep customers informed, how your team uses these tools and how your customers interact with them is important to track and measure.
Customer-first companies (CX juggernauts) drive a better customer experience from all levels of the organization because (as we learned in the second post in this series) they “live” their values, visions, and mission statements every day. These companies employ technological solutions when these add value to the customer experience; however, what they’re careful to avoid is a set-it-and-forget-it (SIAFI) approach to anything pertaining to the customer experience.
CX pretenders are famous for their SIAFI approaches. They create rules no one follows or enforces, they set targets no one achieves, and they add technological stopgaps to their broken internal processes without any thought to their adoption or use. For CX pretenders, technology is always viewed as a panacea for all the things they can’t seem to get humans to accomplish. This, of course, includes their multiple failed attempts to improve the customer experience. They buy technology, then they set-it-and-forget-it.
A good example of this is playing out across automotive dealership service departments today. The idea is sound: employ a Domino’s Tracker-like service to report the progress of customer vehicles in for maintenance or repairs. Doing so would not only improve the customer experience, but also limit the number of inbound phone calls service advisors (those guys and gals that stand behind the podiums in the service drive) receive, and it would increase revenues for the dealership (as customers are more likely to opt for additional services when presented with these prior to vehicle pick-up).
There are decent tools available to car dealers today to do just that – to keep the customer informed of the status of their vehicle repairs throughout the vehicle’s journey from check-in to check-out. Unfortunately, these solutions require the dealership’s service team (humans) to fully adopt and use them (and use them properly) if the goal is to keep the customer informed. Of course, for dealerships without a CX culture, these tools are bought, installed, and then rarely utilized properly. Like everything else that could improve CX and revenues, they employ a SIAFI approach.
The lesson here is that until you’ve become a customer-first company, technology intended to improve the customer experience will likely fail in your organization; that is, if it requires humans to employ it properly.
This is the sixth 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!