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Managing Customer Expectations

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Everyone talks about exceeding your customers’ expectations. It is true. It is no longer good enough to just meet their expectations; you DO have to exceed their expectations to succeed. Today's customer is very well educated and demanding. The internet has opened up a whole world of possibilities. They want high quality, exceptional service and low, low prices. I am reminded of a sign I once read at a printer’s office... "Fast, cheap, good..Pick two." However customers don't want to just "pick two", they want the whole enchilada!

There is a simple way to exceed your customers’ expectations most of the time. And that is to manage those expectations. Be in control. To put it simply, it is like competing in a race, AFTER you decide where the finish line should be.

Often times you don't know what their expectations are. It is almost impossible for you to win without this knowledge. If you help to establish the expectations you are far more likely to impress your customer.

Last week I was looking for some real estate in Chicago for my son. On Sunday I called a realtor. He told me he was at an open house, but would be back to his office later that afternoon and would email me some listings. He never sent me any emails that night and he didn't call me back until the next day. Clearly he set up an expectation that he didn't meet. Now the interesting part of this story is that I had no expectation about when he would get back to me BEFORE he set one in my head. At best since I was calling on a Sunday I assumed that he wouldn't get back to me before the next day. But he set an expectation in my head and he didn't follow through. He would have done better by saying " I will email you the listings tomorrow" and then email them to me that night. He would have set up my expectation and then exceeded it.

My orthopedic surgeon, when looking at the x-ray of my broken ankle, told me that this was a "good" break and there was no damage to the ligaments and that when the bone healed there would be no other problems. Imagine my surprise to still be limping four months later. He didn't manage my expectations well. If he had said "It looks like a simple break, but only time will tell how fast you get better" I would have been less unhappy with the outcome.

Think about what you promise your customer. Are you sure you can fulfill that promise? If not DON'T make it. Focus your customer service programs to give yourself some wiggle room; give yourself some ability to "under promise and over deliver." Set your customers expectations so that you can always exceed them.

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