In its simplest terms, creating customer satisfaction is all about meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations. It should come as no surprise, then, that unmet expectations are the most common trigger for “difficult customers” or difficult situations.
Many customer expectations are out of our control. Our company’s marketing or advertising promises things we can’t deliver. Our competition begins offering a little more than we do – those sorts of things. But, more often than not, unmet expectations are self inflicted wounds, and can easily be prevented by taking a little greater care in the things we say and do.
Imagine, for example, saying something to a customer like, “I’ll get right back to you.” Sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it? We hear this all the time. But think of the situation this sentence could potentially create. By saying “I’ll get right back to you,” you may have meant ‘by the end of the day.’ You understand how things work in your business, and what realistic timelines are. Your customer, however, doesn’t know your business as well as you do, and might have interpreted ‘getting right back to him’ as being ‘within the next ten minutes.’ So, now you have a situation where you might get back to your customer in a couple of hours – thinking you’ve responded very quickly, but your customer is upset because he’s (she’s) waited five hours longer than he thought he would.
Another example might be the loans officer at your bank saying, “Come on in and we’ll get your mortgage set up for you”, but when you get there you find out you have to provide him with a bunch of additional information that you weren’t expecting.
Setting expectations is all about being as detailed and accurate as you can. So instead of saying, “I’ll get right back to you”,say “There’s a few things I have to look into I will try to get back to you by the end of the day.” Then when you get back to them in two hours they’ll be thrilled. Or instead of the loans of officer saying, “Come on in and we’ll get your mortgage set up for you,” saying “Come on in and we can get things started. There might be a few odds and ends of paperwork that we still might need afterward, but we can get most of it done.” These little changes in how you present things might not seem like much, but the impact to your customer could be huge.
We need to remember that there’s a ripple effect to people’s expectations. If you tell someone you’ll get right back to them, for example, that person might get right on the phone and make arrangements based on your information. When you don’t get back to them in an hour or so, they’re now in a position where they look stupid.
An impatient or demanding customer can make setting expectations even more difficult. You might know it’s going to take a week to get the product in, but they are adamant then need it NOW. It’s tempting to say, “It will be here in a few days,” just to take a bit of the pressure off. Needless to say, this creates an even more difficult situation when the customer calls three days later asking where their product is.
When customers like you, trust you, and believe you’ll deliver what you promise, you have customers that will stay loyal to you, and refer you to their friends. Let them down in any one of those areas and you have a recipe for conflict.