The following steps will help you assure that customers know what you can offer – and at the same time, help you know what their expectations are.
Know What Customers Value
You may already be aware of the required mix of speed, quality, and price for optimizing your small business operations and for assuring that these correspond closely to your customers’ expectations.
However, assessing market conditions to find out customer priorities may be in order if you are unsure about what is needed in these areas. Gearing your small business to align with customer values is vital to your overall long-range success.
Spell It Out
When managing customer expectations, you cannot expect customers to honor your requirements and expectations if they are unaware of them. Be as clear and explicit as possible at the front end. Communicate what a particular quote includes and what it doesn’t, and what you are going to do as well as what you are not going to do. However, keep in mind that too much detail may only lead to confusion and conflict.
Arrange both you and your customers’ responsibilities and rights sequentially in documents or summaries. Restate customer expectations and duties at every milestone, including provider and client deliverables. Avoid turning this into an authoritarian process; it should allow room for give-and-take, because customers expect you to be somewhat flexible.
Even so, take special care to be sure that any trade-offs agreed to are clearly understood.
Know What Your Competitors Are Offering
The problem with choosing the high road and following a policy of under-promising and over-delivering is that shady competitors may adopt the former and fail to fulfil the latter. There is always the possibility that you may find new business by rescuing customers from failed deals; even so, it’s a good policy to keep the records straight at every juncture.
Keep abreast of the promises competitors are making and check out their validity when managing customer expectations. You may come across certain promises that other organizations are making that you know your company cannot fulfill. If you do business this way, savvy customers will learn to take anything you say with a grain of salt.
Honesty in dealing with your customers is the best policy. Even if you have to turn down some business, making promises you cannot keep is just not a good business practice.
Be Scrupulous In Keeping Your Promises
Failure to live up to customer expectations will cost you business – it is as simple as that. Not delivering services on time, for example, will lead to misgivings regarding your dedication to your customers. Develop a reputation for making realistic commitments and standing by them. If you do this, customers will be willing to accept your terms – even if they are not quite as good as those of other less-reliable businesses.
If your customers’ satisfaction level is shifting, quickly find out why. Perhaps the customer’s situation has changed; however, you must explore the possibility that you have failed in some way. Ask yourself if the situation can be fixed, or if you should just bite the bullet and move on.
If the level of customer dissatisfaction is on the increase, find out the underlying reason. On the other hand, if it is going down, try to figure out what caused it to increase in the first place so you can take measures to prevent it from happening in the future.
There are times when people become so engrossed in being punctual in delivering services that they unknowingly overlook other factors which influence customer satisfaction. Conscientiously observe the customer’s environment as well as your own, and you’ll be able to control and exceed customer expectations.