In a previous post, “Focus on Expectations“, I addressed the importance of basing our customer service processes on the needs of the customer. We must adapt to the needs of the customer as they perceive our service, not as we think they should. Customer expectations can take several forms. In most situations, expectations are built based on comparisons. We draw comparisons to similar people, similar businesses, and similar circumstances. We compare current situations to past events and experiences. Through these comparisons, we determine our expectations for similar organizations, people, or events.
In many ways, customer expectations are more about the individual customer than the business. How often do we encounter a customer who completely understands our policies and procedures and seems appreciative of our assistance followed by another customer who feels all of our ‘rules’ are ridiculous and make no sense. The challenge from a procedural standpoint becomes receiving and filtering the necessary information to determine the ideal direction for our operations. To good news is that only one activity is truly required to gain this information.
Listen to the Customers
Customers who are vocal about their opinions are a valuable commodity to an organization. We must actively listen to their comments, suggestions, and considerations and weigh their statements. When we are hearing the same message on a recurring basis, that is likely a signal that something needs to change. Perhaps we have an outdated process that is not meeting our customers’ needs or we are not offering services that are in line with the direction of our industry. In either scenario, this information is readily available to us through our customers if we know how to listen.
We must meet with customers in the locations where they are already communicating. This means having an active presence on social media and being proactive in addressing customer issues that arise through online platforms. Customers are already talking about our businesses and we need to be involved in that conversation. Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms have tremendous connective power and enable us to communicate directly with customers in a manner that was not possible ten years ago.
This does not mean that we should eschew more traditional communication mediums such as e-mail and telephone. The majority of our work is still to be accomplished through these channels. Social media simply provides options for increased connectivity and initial contact. Once that contact is established, it is often a simple step to recognize customer expectations. If there expectations are not clear, ask. There is no harm in requesting that customers state clearly what their expectations are for exceptional customer service and/or conflict resolution. Simply asking the customer “how can I improve this situation for you” is a powerful phrase for identifying expectations.
We must constantly evaluate whether our services are meeting the needs of our customers. As technology improves, customers are increasingly expecting greater service from the organizations with which they do business. It is in our best interest to listen to the needs of the customers and seek to provide for those needs.
Do you find that traditional customer expectations are changing in your industry? Leave a comment below!