“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” ~ Antonio Banderas

We all have expectations.  It does not matter where we are or what we are doing, expectations are always there.  Now the expectations may differ depending on the situation, but believe me, they are there. Today we’ll concentrate on expectations in the business world, as expectations in the personal world are a bit too crazy to tackle right here.

Ask a child going to Disneyland if they have any expectations about the trip, and you’ll get an earful.  If you are going to a restaurant, there will be expectations.  For example, one’s expectations for a high-end restaurant such as Morton’s Steakhouse would be completely different from your expectations at a fast food place such as McDonalds.  Likewise, a customer buying clothes at Target has different expectations than buying at Nordstrom.  Much of those expectations have to do with the product, customer service, and how the consumer is treated.

It is the job of the business to exceed those expectations no matter what the business is or the expectations may be.  If you exceed the expectations of your customer, than the chances of that person returning, and possibly bringing more people with them, is extremely high.  Statistics say 87% of customers share good experiences with others.  (Zendesk)

Conversely, if expectations are not met, there will be a price to pay.  According to the Harvard Business Review, 84% of consumers say that their expectations had not been exceeded in their last customer service interaction, while 58% of those surveyed will never use a company again after a negative experience. (NewVoice).  In addition, with social media, 54% of customers share bad experiences with 5+ people (Zendesk) while 48% of people who had negative experiences told 10+ people about it. (Harvard Business Review)

Of course, we all know that in certain situations, some customers will always have higher expectations than they should (getting a Morton’s meal at McDonalds), or might try and take advantage of getting something for nothing.  In cases like this, it is good to talk face to face with these customers, and find out exactly what their expectations were and how they got that way.  It’s a good way to find out if any miscommunication occurred along the way, so that it can be corrected.  If expectations are not reasonable for what the business may offer, it is okay to tell the customer your business may not be what they are looking for.  You may even want to help them look for a business that would better suit their needs.  This would prove you have their best interest at heart, would leave a positive impression, and could lead to future business.

The best way to exceed expectations is to under promise and over deliver.  It is important to remember the customer experience begins the moment a consumer thinks about doing business with you.  If expectations are too high before a consumer walks in the door, it becomes much more difficult to exceed them. For example, if a project will take 3 days to complete, don’t tell your customer it will be finished in one day just to get the job.  Better to tell them 3-5 days, and then surprise them when it is finished in three.

As a business, you can try to manage those expectations, although sometimes it may be difficult (think Disney). Check your marketing materials to make sure you are not over promising just to lure in new customers, as this might get them in the door, but will hurt you in the long run.  Make sure to train your customer service reps (and all employees) how to handle all sorts of problems that may arise. Training is, and always will be paramount.

Are customers greeted warmly and sincerely when they walk in the door, or ignored for the first 5 minutes when they are in your establishment? (This happened to me last week, so I walked out.)

Is your website easy to navigate?  Is It easy to read? Is your contact information readily accessible?  Are your prices competitive?  Do you leave your customers with a “Wow” moment they will remember long after their encounter with you?

In order to exceed expectations each and every time, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, so you can see what their journey looks and feels like when doing business with you.  We all like surprises, big or small, so if your business can brighten someone’s day when they least expect it, you are well on your way to cultivating a hefty dose of repeat business, the best type of business out there!

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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