How can you meet customers’ expectations if you don’t know what they are?


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What does “good” look like?

It’s something that, as CX leaders, we’re always thinking of.  I frequently get asked questions like, “How fast does our response rate need to be?”

The easy answer is, “As quick as you can make it.” But that’s lazy! And, even worse, that lazy answer can actually harm your brand.  Because nothing comes without tradeoffs.

We had a client who focused on same-day shipping for every service request.  You ask for it today, we’ll get it out today. A perfect response, right?  Except this came with a high internal cost. Somebody had to get the products out the door, and the service and shipping teams would drop everything else in order to get the products out the door. Which meant that other customer requests were delayed.

It wasn’t until they spent time in the field that they realized that this rapid response really wasn’t necessary. And that’s when our client started to ask the question – just how fast does our shipping need to be, anyway? And the answer surprised them.

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You can probably guess the first answer: It depends. Which might not sound terribly helpful – but really was. Because the team realized that not every package needed to be rushed.  So they started reaching out to customers to learn more. What they discovered was that most shipments didn’t need to be shipped that same day. While there were certainly some that needed to be rushed, most of the time the products sat around until their dealer needed them.

So, not only was the team unnecessarily dropping everything to get the product out the door. Now, their customer needed a place to store it until they were ready. Rather than impressing their customers with quick reactions, they were actually causing their customers to do unnecessary work!

By asking customers the critical question: “What are your expectations?” our client learned an important lesson.

There are a few takeaways here, besides the obvious:

  • Notice that they didn’t send out a survey. Expectations are too nuanced to use a survey – it takes face-to-face discussions to find out what’s really important.
  • Our client didn’t even think to ask the question at first – it was only through informal face-to-face conversations that the topic came up incidentally.
  • Which obviously requires us to get out of our offices and to visit customers.

What are your customers’ conversations?  And are you really sure you’re right?


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