If you work for a company, you have customers. If you have customers, they hire you to do something and expect you to deliver something useful. It is that simple. Thus, the important ingredient of keeping customers happy is satisfying customer expectations.
Often customer expectations are already there. They are set by the industry, your competition, or the information your clients got from the internet. You can still set expectations specific to your service, of course. However, the minimum requirements need to be there for the customer to even consider you as a choice.
If you are in marketing, you are making the promise that your company will have to keep. You are on the front lines of understanding the customer and satisfying a need with your service. It is up to you to reach them with your solution to their problems. Will they become your loyal advocates? Will they bring you new business by recommending your service to their friends? Your ultimate goal is to achieve high customer satisfaction to increase the number of your fans.
Here is how you can do that.
Start with understanding
First, you need to know your customer. Only then you can understand their expectations and how to meet them with your service. If your customers know what to expect from your company right from the get go, it will be easier to keep them happy.
Hear the customer, understand what they need. Frequently, what they ask you to do is not what they need. Offer a different solution. You are the expert, earn their trust.
Once you know what they need, deliver the value. You can gather information about them from their buying patterns, the vendors they work with, their press releases. Learn who their decision-makers are, who will be your advocate.
Target the person who is going to use or implement your service. Provide them with training if necessary. Make sure they understand what they are getting and how it is going to meet their goals.
All customers come with perceived expectations. Know what they will find acceptable and what do they really want. Anybody can deliver sufficient, good enough results. As a minimum, your service has to be fast and accurate. But can you exceed their expectations with extras and provide a great experience?
Do you know why customers hire you? Why did they choose you and not your competition? That is where your unique sales proposition (USP) comes into play. I also suggest asking your clients so you can amend your USP if necessary. The bottom line, you have a reputation for something - know why customers decide you are better than others.
It is very important that you do not over-promise. Your reputation is at stake here. Identify goals and KPIs clearly, explain the level of support they will be getting and time table.
Continue with support
Once the service or project starts, do not drop off the face of the Earth. Keep clear communication open and continue explaining the expectations. Constant contact clears up misunderstandings. Even when something goes wrong, it is crucial that you communicate the problem to the client and your plan to fix it.
Often circumstances change, companies change, goals change. When that happens to your or your customer, adjust and reset the expectations.
Stay in touch with your main stake holders and the people who are going to use your service or product. Make sure their needs are met and use their feedback to improve.
Try to stay away from customizations. Make your customers feel they are getting a special treatment without making a lot of changes to your processes. Customizing service plans, deliverables, reports, etc. will add unnecessary expenses and reduce your bottom line.Custom plans are always difficult to maintain.
Finish with a bang
Your final results will be a surprise to no one if you have communicated with your customer throughout the whole process. At this time, all that is needed is a clear explanation of how you fixed the problem that the client hired you to resolve.
If there are additional steps needed from the client to complete, identify them in order of priority and have clear instructions on how to implement them. It helps to know what the expected results are after the implementation as well as estimated losses if no action is taken. Offer training - this can be your opportunity to exceed the client's expectations. But most importantly, your clients need to know exactly what to do with the results.
Finally, follow through with the client after some time. Did they find your services valuable? Were they satisfied with the results? Will they recommend you to others? Recommendations will be the true measure of how satisfied the customers are with your service?
Keeping your customers happy
The reason we all worry about customer expectations is to maintain high customer satisfaction. It is truly not about your service or product - it is about the perception of how well it is going to work for the customer. Once you shape and define this perception, keeping the customer happy is not that difficult if the service or product lives up to the promise. Once the surprise element is removed, you can dazzle the client with unexpected extras that will make their day.