The outcome of most customer services interactions frequently comes down to expectations. I have written about customer expectations before (Focus on Expectations, Seeking the Exceptional) and consider the topic to be of essential consideration to anyone seeking to understand their customers and maximize their experience. The formula to create satisfied customers can be viewed in very simple terms:
If Performance > Expectations then Customers = Satisfied.
In this formula, the quantity of ‘satisfaction’ is proportional to the difference between ‘performance’ and ‘expectations’. In practice, this means there are two ways to increase customer satisfaction: increase organizational performance or decrease customers’ expectations. I believe that most people would agree that the second option is neither ideal nor sustainable. Recent research by Lithium found that corporate executives consider in increasing difficult to meet customers’ demands. Technology has created a consumer culture that wants its products and services faster, cheaper, and with more options and customization. Additionally, while it may possible in the short-term to succeed by being marginally better than the next best option, even exceptional service internal to your organization will cause customer expectations to increase.
If we accept that decreasing customers’ expectations is not a sustainable operational strategy for improving customer satisfaction, then we are stuck with increasing performance. Some customer service strategies focus on catering to the needs of each individual customer. This makes sense when you consider the customer satisfaction formula above and realize that every customer is likely to have their own expectations of performance. While I do believe this should be the operational guideline for customer service agents, I also believe that relying on individual customization as the sole means to optimize customer experience places undue pressure on your employees to navigate each customer interaction with minimal guidance. It should be the objective of customer service management to develop processes that are designed to exceed customer expectations. While there are numerous ways to accomplish this goal, let’s examine one of my favorites.
Make the Big Deals Small
Ask yourself, “what would my customers consider to be perfect service and how close can I get to that ideal?” Most likely, ‘perfect’ service may not be operationally feasible. We would all love free items delivered instantly to our doorstep, but that is not a sustainable business model. Instead, focus on the reasonable options – both financially and logistically – and start developing ways to minimize the cost of this level of service to your organization. The objective here is to make the service level that customers consider exceptional require minimal effort from your organization.
Start from perfection and work backwards. We often examine existing processes and work to improve those processes from the current state. This can lead us to implement incremental changes over long periods of time that require constant revision for minimal gains. Instead, we should start with an ideal vision and then seek the means to operational it at a sustainable level. We make the big deals small!
Do you have examples from your organization where you have achieved this objective? How have your customers reacted? Level a comment in the field below!