At a business networking breakfast I attended a short time ago, the guest speaker asked us: “What is excellent customer service?” There were a few answers, things like “making a promise and keeping it”, “going beyond the call of duty”, “caring about your customers” and so on. Whilst the speaker acknowledged that they were all great responses, they said the real answer is very simple. Drawing a line on a board, they said, “this is your customers’ expectation”. The speaker then drew a second line just above it stating, “and this is what you deliver”. That’s excellent customer service.

So we can assume meeting your customers’ expectations is good service and anything below that is bad customer service.

It played on my mind for a couple of days and I kept coming back to it. There was one thing about that simple formula which intrigued me … where did that expectation come from? I could only come up with two possible sources:

  1. Previous experience with another provider (you’re being compared to someone else).
  2. You told them, either directly or indirectly through your sales pitch and marketing materials, what to expect from you.

Even if someone has had previous experience with another provider in the past, your marketing still sets their expectations. I remember another thing my mother, who has an international organisation with a multi-million dollar annual turn-over, told me growing up: “Always under promise, and over deliver.”

I’m most interested in how people’s expectations are set because I believe it’s the key consistently satisfy customers. How many of us are making our jobs harder by setting our prospective customers up with unrealistic expectations? I don’t actually think customers are getting pickier and expecting more for less on their own, it’s this Bigger/Better syndrome brought on by advertisers trying to outdo each other. It’s also partly due to the overwhelming competition which stems from the economic climate.

Customers expect more because companies are promising more.

What if we only made promises we could easily keep and outperform? What if we could weed out the customers we don’t want and attract the ones we do want, right from the start? What if we could turn our flaws into benefits? Here’s my favourite word … what if we could be totally Flawsome and have people love us for it?