For those of us who run a business, one of our fundamental responsibilities is to manage customer expectations to keep everyone happy – including ourselves! This can be a little tough at times, especially when we have conflicting priorities and more than one customer wanting our immediate attention.
Keeping our customers happy is linked very closely to keeping them informed and feeling as though you have their best interests at heart.
How do you do that consistently every day, when you have many customers and competing priorities?
If you’re not a large organisation with a dedicated customer support team, it can feel hard at times. REALLY hard, I know!
After being in my own business for over 12 years, I know that it can be a juggling act. Early on in my business, my customer support was not in sync with my working day. I was focussed on learning marketing and sales for my small business and implementing all those tactics to generate awareness and new leads, prospects and customers.
The reality is that when you are a solopreneur, it can be extremely challenging to live up to everyone’s expectations; including your own.
So therein lies the challenge:
How do you create an experience for yourself and your customers where it is consistent for them and seamless for you. And where it wouldn’t matter if you had one or twenty-five staff members – the experience would still be the same?
There are many books you can read about the customer experience (and how to manage customer expectations), and there are many strategies and tactics you could employ. The conundrum exists when you don’t manage your customer’s expectations effectively. That is the key ingredient to a successful experience.
Let’s look at it this way:
You can have all the knowledge about how to treat your customers well, manage customer expectations, shower them with gratitude and over-deliver with your product or service.
However, if you haven’t FIRST established what your customer’s expectations are even before they purchase, you are creating an opportunity for them to experience doubt, disappointment, and lack of trust in you.
This is the exact opposite of what you want in your business.
You can easily manage customer expectations if you are aware of when to do it and how to continue doing it. You can do this as part of a process in your business, and you can get one of your team to assist you.
Here’s how you can build this in to create your Customer Journey:
- Ensure that you have clearly identified what your product (or service) does for someone AND how you are going to achieve that.
- Review all your marketing materials, including your sales scripts and nurturing information to ensure that you explain to a prospect exactly what it is that you will do for them (managing expectations).
- Reinforce what you have sold them into your Onboarding process, how it’s going to help them AND what you are going to do for them (this is reinforcing the expectations).
- Ensure you’ve given them opportunities to connect with you, ask questions, and ask for anything else they may need (managing expectations).
If you can do this well, then you are going to be so much better off, and your customer relationship is going to be more successful.
What about after they’ve been a customer for a while and you ‘drop the ball’?
(I’m pointing out the fact that as a human you probably will drop the ball at some stage as we can never be 100% on top of everything, all the time, in all ways, to all people.)
So let’s say you’ve worked with a customer for a while, and you are in a routine or rhythm of working with them. You are also bringing in new customers, managing existing ones, and generally keeping busy. The wheels are in motion!
What happens if a customer suddenly drops off, or demonstrates that they are unhappy and that you’re not delivering?
This is a great time to look at how often you are meeting with them to discuss the work you’re doing for them, their needs, and ensuring that they are communicating to you their expectations so that you are aware of them.
Have you taken the time to understand them? What their changing needs are? And what is it that they want to achieve?
What your customer wanted at the beginning of working with you may have changed over time, simply because they have evolved and so has their needs.
Hence it’s essential that you know what their current needs are, and respond to those with how you can assist them in meeting those needs.
Similarly (because this is entirely a two-way street), you need to be communicating to your customer what your expectations are by what you are willing to do and not do. Also what you will accept from THEM and what you will not accept. (e.g. late payments? Slow turnaround times? Changing scope suddenly after somethings delivered? Lack of communication? – all these are things that you may NOT want to accept in your relationship).
You need to set your boundaries.
This is such a critical factor in ALL human relationships. It’s through healthy and clearly stated boundaries that your customer:
a) Knows where they stand.
b) Knows when, where and how to contact you.
c) Knows when you are working for them.
d) Knows what you won’t do as part of your service.
e) Knows what you need in order for you fulfil the service.
And probably a lot more!
I’ve got colleagues who work and take calls from their customers on weekends, and it has cost them dearly in terms of work satisfaction, personal freedom, physical energy and overall joy and happiness.
Is that something I want for myself? Absolutely not! To achieve a healthy relationship with myself, my family AND my customers, I need to ensure they know that I won’t be taking calls on weekends and nor will I be doing work on weekends.
I’m not in the business of saving lives, so the work I do can wait until Business Hours.
That is a boundary I have in place, and my customers understand that. They are happy with that and respect it! It’s something that helps me manage client expectations.
I suggest you follow the advice in this article and put in place touch points to connect with your customers and ensure new customers are having their expectations met early on.
AND ensure your boundaries are in place for how you can work optimally for your customer’s success – then you will go a long way towards ensuring that you are managing customer expectations to keep everyone happy in the best possible way.