Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Exceeding Customer Expectations May Not Be A Good Thing"

Customer satisfaction in any type of endeavor involving the delivery of products or services is sought and coveted by businesspeople the world over. We want people to enjoy doing business with us and to like what they purchased from us, to tell their friends, associates, or others who might benefit from a similar purchase about how much they enjoy making that decision.

In today's world of social media, we rely on people posting on various sites about their positive experiences of working with us and refraining from posting negative ones (because they actually were happy with what was provided and therefore negative posts don't apply).

In wanting to serve the needs of our customers effectively, we like to say that we strive to exceed the expectations of our customers and clients. On the surface, this sounds like an admirable objective, but it might be a trap.

If we went to a restaurant that was known for good food not necessarily for how well the kept the place as clean and neat as one might expect from a place that serves good food, we would have one expectation for the quality of the food and a lesser one for the physical appearance and general cleanliness.

In that same example, if we happened to find that the place was somehow cleaner or neater than we expected on one particular visit, they would have exceeded our expectations but not necessarily have come up to the level that we felt they should have been at from the beginning.

Exceeding expectations as a slogan and as a reality only work if the client or customer has high expectations to begin with. If they expect an A- performance or less, it's not that hard to exceed their expectations. This is the trap.

It's not that hard to exceed expectations when the perceived performance by us in the eyes of our clients and customers - their expectations - were not especially strong from the beginning.

Creating the proper type of anticipation about the type of results our clients and customers will receive is key - without downplaying our abilities or minimizing the outcome we can achieve or the way we do our work. If we make such a poor case for what we can do, there is no sensible reason for using us at all unless our price is so much lower than anyone else that they would be willing to suffer through a subpar performance just to arrive at some solution to their needs.

Clearly that would not be the case, so let's be careful about advertising that we exceed customer expectations because we might be setting ourselves up for perfection and allowing our clients and customers to find even the smallest flaw or fault in what we do.

Exceeding customer expectations may sound like a great concept - and it can be motivating to us to strive for an even better performance that we customarily deliver - but it is so easy to do just enough to please the customer. Then anything done above and beyond that would be exceeding their expectations. They will be satisfied, and we might even save a dollar or two in the process. That's not in the spirit of exceeding expectations, but it does follow the letter of it.

When we start out with an A+ concept, describe in great detail how we intend to do it and what it will mean for them, then deliver it with an A++ execution (even without mentioning ahead of time that we will or that we did when we are done), that truly is exceeding customer expectations. Not that many companies are committed to doing this, and the public knows it.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.