The choice is up to you! The guide to exceeding customer expectations of service
Choices. In today’s world one thing we have in spades are choices.
We have literally hundreds of kinds of breakfast cereals, laundry detergents and even vegan burgers to choose from every time we walk into our local Publix, Wegmans or any other supermarket. We have boundless choices of telecom providers and service plans, and endless options for devices, some with these bells and others with those whistles. With enough choices in our daily lives to make our heads spin, it would be wise to remember that your customers also have a choice – they can choose your brand or any one of your many competitors.
While you chew on that, we’ll remind you that you, as a marketer, also have a choice – you can choose to do all you can to retain your hard-earned customers or to lose them in the vast sea of options. You can choose to fail to meet their expectations, to simply meet their expectations or to exceed their expectations. One path leads to loss of customers and a lack of trust, one leads to customers who although relatively satisfied, could be swayed by other options out there, and one path leads to creating customer experiences that build solid relationships.
Brands are constantly making these choices, day in and day out, whether or not they realize it. In this post we will take a look at five scenarios in which brands made a choice. Some made the choice to let their customers down, failing to meet their expectations. Others saw an opportunity to delight and truly exceed their customer’s expectations. And all provide amazing insights into what it takes to make or break customer relationships.
Zappos – unwavering empathy
First we’ll look at one company known around the world for creating incredible customer experiences – Zappos. A woman named Zaz wanted to return a pair of shoes and emailed customer support to ask about the procedure. Then, unfortunately her mother died and her plans to return the shoes fell by the wayside.
Choices are being made with every encounter, at each touch point. Let’s imagine this same story happening in which the company makes one of three choices – one in which they fail to meet her expectations, the next in which they meet her expectations and the last in which they far exceed her expectations.
After regaining the head space to deal with the return, she emails customer service.
How Zappos could have missed meeting expectations
When it comes to a complicated situation, the agent dealing with the email might not care two hoots about the customer and her problems. Agents may come across as callous and unsupportive, giving the message “we really don’t care about your problem, we’re in this for your money”
How Zappos could have met expectations
A response that acknowledges the customer’s pain should always be a baseline goal. This can be tough using email but agents have to do all they can to show compassion and let each customer know they have been heard.
How Zappos exceeded customer’s expectations
Back in real life, not only did Zappos listen to Zaz’s plight with empathy, they displayed it. The agent told Zaz not to worry, Zappos would take care of the problem. She then set up a UPS delivery to come pick up and package the shoes from Zaz’s home so she wouldn’t have to deal with anything. Soon after they sent her a beautiful flower arrangement to show their sympathy.
This story has gone beyond viral – it’s one of the Zappo’s legends that people tell over and over despite the fact that it took place years ago. This is the power choosing to exceed expectations.
Let’s see some other examples in action:
Comcast misses the mark – entirely
Some telecom companies sure do know how to make their mark, and that’s not always a good thing.
A few years ago a man named Ryan wanted to cancel his Comcast subscription. In a cancelation story such as this, one can imagine that the overall experience with the brand might not have been a winner to begin with. But again, with every encounter there is a choice to create an amazing experience or a terrible one and even when a customer decides to end a relationship, it can be handled with grace and empathy.
Let’s see how this story worked out:
How Comcast missed meeting expectations
Ryan was told that before he would be allowed out of his subscription, he needed to provide a solid reason for canceling. The rep continued to badger him for 20 minutes until a supervisor got involved. He wrote about the incident on social media where it went viral. The incident set off a flurry of bad press for ComCast and many many more stories began to emerge regarding their terrible customer service.
How they could have met expectations
Simply meeting expectations in such a situation is pretty easy – Listen to the customer and give them what they want. By simply giving the customer what they want, even if it means losing their business, brands retain their professional and courteous edge.
How they could have exceeded his expectations of service
Savvy brands know how to make the best out of bad situations. There will be times when a customer decides to go in a different direction or needs to cancel for whatever reason. This is the perfect opportunity to show departing customers that your dedication to them goes beyond simply making a buck. Start with empathy, and do what they request without persisting, or badgering. Kindly ask them what your brand can do better for your customers. Then do something above and beyond for them. Send them a gift certificate to Starbucks or send an email telling them sincerely that you’ll work on the areas that caused the customer to jump ship. Sure they might leave now, but if they know you’re sincere, they may very well be back soon.
Dazed and confused – Amazon encounter leaves customer annoyed
A man named Chris noticed an odd email address associated with his Amazon.com account and he feared someone was trying to hack it or use it for otherwise nefarious purposes. He contacted their live chat rep to have them look into it.
How Amazon missed customer’s expectations
Normally, Amazon scores high when it comes to customer service, but not this time. The chat rep, Farah, clearly wasn’t fully engaged in her correspondence with Chris. She repeatedly asked for his user name and insisted on calling him “ma’am”. She told him she would happily reset his password even though that was not what he requested at all and her writing was riddled with mistakes. Although he tried many times to explain his problem, she just wasn’t paying any attention. Eventually, Chris gave up.
How they could have met expectations
Encounters with agents should be straightforward and simple. In good in situation of customer service queries should be met with professional, neat and clear writing, by reps who are paying attention to the story as it unfolds.
How they could have exceeded service expectations
Although written correspondence with customers might seem less personal, there are opportunities here as well to delight and deliver beyond expectations. Start by meeting their expectations as outlined above with professional and clear communication, and once the issue has been resolved, take the time to follow up with your customers a few days later, making sure their issues are truly resolved. This goes a long way to let customers know you really do care.
Lots of love for Lego customer service
James who is 11 years old and has Asperger’s syndrome, saved up money for a certain Lego train set. After working so hard to save up, to his great disappointment, he found that the set had been discontinued when he went to buy it. He emailed Lego to voice his disappointment.
How Lego could have missed meeting expectations
Had Lego ignored the poor boy’s letter or sent back a brusque response, they would have been guilty of a major customer service fail. Luckily that wasn’t the case…
How Lego met expectations
Initially, Lego HQ sent James a kind letter empathizing with his situation. But they didn’t stop there…
How Lego exceeded expectations
A few weeks later, just days before his birthday, James got a huge package in the mail from Lego HQ. Inside was the discontinued set. Thankfully, his overjoyed reaction was captured on camera and went viral and the people up at Lego HQ got the chance to see how much their customer service kind gesture meant to James.
Compassion & comfortable shoes
To come full circle, this last example from Zappos goes to show that a legacy of exemplary service is built upon a foundation of continuously choosing to exceed customer expectations.
A woman ordered six pairs of shoes for her mother, suffering from diabetes, from the shoe retail giant. After receiving the shoes, it turned out that her mother was only able to wear two of the six pairs as almost all shoes cause her great pain. She called customer service to arrange the return.
How Zappos could have missed customer’s expectations
Well, since this is Zappos, we know they didn’t fail but let’s just pretend for a moment… When inquiring about returns or anything for that matter, agents sometimes choose to be distant and unhelpful. This might be an agent-related issue but often it’s part of a larger issue and goes much deeper than just that one agent. Customers know which brands really care about their needs and wants, and who is just in it to make a buck.
How Zappos could have met expectations
The rep could have just processed the return, fast and courteous. Professional interactions are a critical element for meeting expectations but they are also the basis for amazing interactions so it’s really crucial to ace this part. But knowing that the brand was Zappos, it didn’t end there…
How Zappos exceeded expectations
Not only was the rep professional and courteous, she told the woman that her father too suffered from similar issues and she should relate. She displayed total compassion and left the older woman beaming from ear to ear upon ending the call. Nice, right? But it goes beyond that. After the conversation, the rep sent the woman a huge bouquet of lilies and roses to let her know she cared and was thinking about her. Then the woman and her daughter got an email from Zappos stating that they had been enrolled in their special VIP program – just because. These are the kinds of expressions that come from the heart customers know it’s real and will be coming back for more.
As you see, becoming a brand whose goal is to exceed expectations isn’t one that’s unattainable or too hard to implement. It just takes a real commitment to making the right choices over and over. And on the other side of the coin, becoming a brand known for disappointing their customers is just as easy, all it takes is making the wrong choice repeatedly.
So now it’s up to you: What kind of brand do you intend to build? One that fails to meet expectations and let’s your customers know you don’t really care, one that simply meets them, which might not be enough to make them stick around, or one that exceeds customer expectations at every turn?
The choice is up to you.