Managing Customer Expectations

What does your company do to ensure happy customers?

Do you know what the difference is between a happy customer and a complacent one?  The happy customer is loyal and the complacent customer is not.  How do your customers feel about doing business with you?  What does your company do to ensure happy customers?

Managing Customer Expectations is not only about satisfying the customer.  It is also about providing clarity within your own organization, and between your organization and the customer.  Clarity sets internal and external expectations.  Once you have clarity, you can focus on efficiency…which leads to happy customers and increased profits.  So why do so many companies fail at managing customer expectations?  Maybe it is because they spend too much time measuring customer satisfaction and not enough time working together.

Here is an example of two different approaches a company can take:

  1. Fix problems to the customer’s expectations via corrective actions.
  2. Proactively manage expectations to ensure problems do not arise.

If you were the customer, which approach would make you happy, loyal and engaged?  Which approach does your company take today?

Managing customer expectations is not only about solving or anticipating problems, but by focusing on this area first you can begin the process: create internal systems, develop a customer centric environment, improve work flows, happier customers and increased profits.

Start your efforts by improving customer service.  Your customer service team is on the front line and often left to be the buffer between the company and the customer..   Here is the problem: customers do not want to speak with a buffer; they want to speak with a company they can be partners with.  The customer service department should act as an entry point to this partnership while other departments back up their efforts.  All areas of the company must be involved in managing customer expectations.

Here are five actions you can take to ensure your company proactively manages customer expectations by working together.

ONE: Create a silent partnership.

Have managers/supervisors sit in on customer service calls for 20-30 minutes per week.  This will give everyone an idea of customer requirements, and inspire accountability on their part when dealing with future issues.  Managers are the ones who will make changes in their own departments to ensure customer service/sales are getting the support they need in the time frame they need it.  By sitting in on calls just to listen, they can act immediately within their teams to make things happen, as well as witness first hand the support, or lack of it, that their teams currently give to the customer service/sales team.

TWO: Involve other departments in the customer service function.

Encourage conference calls with customers to include other members of your organization whenever there is a problem you are working on with a customer.  Make sure your customer service representative handling each account leads these calls.  Don’t pass the call along, instead, show your customer that you are a team and the person they talk with regularly is not a buffer, but the one pulling everything together for them.

THREE: Share customer feedback.

Document customer experiences and share them throughout your company.  State the issue, the solution, response time and the individuals involved in order to give credit.  Many times customer issues are perceived as problems, but it does not have to be that way.  If you are focused on great service, you can use customer issues as examples to encourage and motivate your team.  This is different than documenting corrective actions and customer complaints.  It is all about creative solutions, accountability and teamwork.

FOUR: Train you organization to take advantage of standardized improvements.

Promote best practice by learning from past experiences and making solutions standard practice.  Department managers outside of customer service can use best practices to train their employees on how to handle situations in the future so that management does not have to intervene.

FIVE: Keep the dialog going.

Proactively initiate conference calls with key customers and other managers in your company to ask how you are doing to meet their expectations.  Continue to set the bar higher in your organization and in your industry.  Have six-month or quarterly reviews with key accounts asking if they are happy with your service.  This is a great way to establish your company as a leader.  Customers will become more open to telling you ways to improve…that is much better than deciphering why you lost a customer after the fact.

Managing Customer Expectations goes beyond customer service…it is a company culture that needs to be developed and managed.  Get everyone involved and become a customer centric organization.

  • Be proactive with key accounts.
  • Get all areas of the business to listen to the customer.
  • Let your customer service/sales team speak for your company.
  • Ensure the company supports the customer service/sales team.
  • Periodically review customer requests and determine what makes sense to standardize in your routine.
  • Communicating what your organization can’t do is just as important as communicating what it can do.

I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!

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Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

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