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Principles That Meet Customer Expectations

February 1, 2017

What do customers want, anyway? From my experience, most customer complaints are the result of poorly communicated expectations on the part of the company and poor or non-existent follow up. In other words, customers expected something and it was not provided when they expected it or it was not what they expected.

Meeting, let alone exceeding, customer expectations always poses a challenge because expectations are constantly in flux. They change easily, they change rapidly, and they are based upon the individual customer.

So how do you meet, let alone exceed, customer expectations? You can’t, because every customer is different. There are, however, 10 universal customer service principles that should be put into practice. How satisfied your customers are will be determined by your performance in these 10 areas.

Be accessible

Slow response and long waits are equated with an attitude of indifference toward customers. Fast response and brief waits are equated with concern for customers.

This means always ensuring agents are doing what they are supposed to be doing and when they are supposed to be doing it. This may seem like babysitting, but you have to stress the importance of the power of one and how one person has an impact on how quickly customer inquiries are answered.

All too often this explanation is not enough. To illustrate this concept in a more concrete way, incorporate the following exercise into training. When it is completed, the importance of accessibility becomes very clear.

Give each agent a ball. Each ball represents a customer. Then ask all agents to stand in a circle and start passing around the balls. Ask the agents to pass quickly and efficiently. Suddenly, remove one agent from the circle and explain that the agent has just made himself or herself unavailable. Then pull out another agent, explaining that this person stayed on break longer than allowed. Then remove another who was taking a long time making notes on a customer’s account.

During this time, the other agents are working harder to keep the balls flowing at the same speed without dropping them out of the queue.

Then pull out another agent, explaining that this person went to lunch at the wrong time. By now the balls are probably starting to drop. Explain that this exercise illustrates how much impact each agent’s actions can have on your customers. Most people think their actions will not matter, but they truly do!

Treat customers with courtesy

When working with customers, always focus on the situation or issue, not on the person. Focus on courtesy, because the issues that customers are contacting you about may not seem like a big deal to you, but to the customer the issue means a great deal.

Courtesy is the most visible way to convey respect. Excellent customer service cannot happen without a courteous environment. It is imperative that agents understand that courtesy begins with each of them!

We make a choice every day on how we feel. This translates into what attitude each of us brings to work. If your attitude is unfriendly or not helpful, you will have a negative impact on every customer you come in contact with. If your attitude is helpful and friendly, you will have a positive impact.

Be responsive to customer needs and wants

All customers want is for you to be concerned about their business and understand their issues. They want to be the center of your attention at that moment and they want the interaction they have with you to be carefree.

You should always be uplifting, but also be sensible in how you approach customers and resolve issues. Customers expect you to satisfy them, but you can also do it simply. Give customers every reason to trust you.

Say “thank you for your business” in a thoughtful way. And lastly, respect customers’ needs and wants and rectify mistakes. Learn to anticipate your customers’ needs, and you’ll be in business!

Do what the customer asks, promptly

Make sure you perform the necessary tasks to resolve customer inquiries in a timely fashion. Resolving inquiries quickly will impress customers. Don’t tell them you will get back to them, as this gives them time to look elsewhere for a better price or faster turnaround. Keep customers engaged and get them the answers they need on that first interaction.

Customers just need to know that you value them and their business. If you forget about something you were supposed to do for them, you won’t keep your customers for very long.

Provide well-trained and informed employees

The proper training of employees will set the foundation for success. Every successful training program consists of some type of curriculum-based classes that teach the fundamentals, such as the products and services offered to customers and basic customer service skills. How these classes are taught makes all the difference.

To ensure employees are properly trained and informed, create a plug-and-play curriculum-based training program. But go beyond the basics by encompassing your mission statement and core values into the program. In addition, ensure that customer service skills’ training includes topics such as building long-term customer relationships and understanding the need for a customer-centric focus. These topics will provide each employee with a better sense of purpose regarding customer satisfaction.

Also, ensure all classes are interactive and provide immediate reinforcement and feedback. Finally, provide a means by which employees can partake in some form of continuing education, whether such training is held on site by an internal staff member or a third party.

Implementing a structured and interactive training program will immediately pay dividends, as your employees will feel more prepared to handle customer interactions, and their learning curve will be significantly reduced.

Tell customers what to expect

What does it mean to set expectations with customers? It means clearly communicating everything your customers can expect to receive in response to their inquiries. They should know exactly what you are going to do to provide a resolution.

Properly setting expectations will determine the success or failure of your relationship with each customer. If customers don’t have a clear understanding of what they are getting, you’ll fail. If you provide something customers don’t want or weren’t expecting, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your work was or how quickly you got it done.

Setting expectations isn’t difficult or mysterious, but it does take time and discipline. You can’t make any assumptions, and you need to be crystal clear with customers about what they will be getting. Setting expectations is a constant communication process. The resolution may change slightly, or you might find a better way to do something. If the change is significant enough, just be sure to let customers know. Keep them informed.

Meet your commitments

Remember when a person’s word was his or her bond? For whatever reasons, that doesn’t seem as important as it did 25 years ago. But it should be. Customers expect you to do what you say you’re going to do and when you say you are going to do it. Become someone known for keeping his or her word, and for building loyalty and trust with each customer interaction.

Do it right the first time

Doing it right the first time involves making sure that all activities are carried out in the right manner the first time, and every time. Completing all services correctly the first time is not easy, but doing so can be an effective way for businesses to build loyalty and trust with their customers, which in turn will increase satisfaction and profits.

Follow up

Contact your customers after the purchase is complete, or a job is delivered, or after the issue has been resolved, and ask them what their experience was like and if they were satisfied. If they were happy with everything  great  ask for a referral. If not, try to make things right. When you build a business that will define good customer service, you are laying the foundation of a company that will also define success.

Be ethical

Customers’ expectations are influenced by many factors, and their process to select a partner can be just as complex. One of the major factors is credibility. They want to know how trustworthy and honest the service provider is.

To meet this critical factor, you have to make an effort to know customers and their needs; listen and keep customers informed in a language they understand; possess the required skills and knowledge to perform the promised service dependably and accurately; be willing to help customers and provide prompt service; and be polite, respectful, considerate, and friendly.

Implementing and evolving these 10 principles will help you gain customer loyalty, and customer loyalty will keep you in business!

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