The art of meeting customer expectations

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23/365 I always feel like somebody's watching me...Managing customer expectations are closely tied to an organization’s consistent and accurate ability to communicate. When there are poorly managed expectations and neglectful follow-up procedures, customers become confused, disappointed, and frustrated. Basically the problems arise when a service, product, call back, or response has not been delivered or is not what the customer expected.

Let us assume a customer comes into a store to purchase a smart phone. People with experience and some technological knowledge can easily navigate such features as sending and receiving emails, editing Office documents, high-speed Web access, or even using the QWERTY keyboard. Just suppose however, my mother’s monthly book club friends have convinced her to join the technology age and purchase a BlackBerry OS so she can keep up with her children, grandchildren, and other forward thinking senior citizens. So of course, my mother has little technological experience, but the sales person who sold her the BlackBerry OS told her how simple the smart phone would be to use. Unfortunately, my mother is now frustrated and very unhappy; she can hardly even turn the phone on, much less navigate to ever text a message.

Therefore the expectation process may very well have to start with the sales team. If the sales focus is on “closing the deal,” how does an organization prevent unrealistic expectations as just happened to my mother? Shouldn’t there be a balance between what a company has to do and what should be done? She expected a certain level of service, but the company delivered something completely different from what she thought she was getting, and it wasn’t to her satisfaction. Had the salesperson been realistic with her and asked her about her experience or lack of experience with smartphones, the salesperson would have taken a completely different approach.

If sales personnel are eager to close deals irrespective of a customer’s needs or understanding, the product or service fails as to customer expectations. Sales people driven by dollar signs are just eager to take advantage of a situation because it means a financial reward or maybe a sales award at the next staff meeting. Unfortunately customers like my mother will tell her friends at the next book club how unhappy she is with her new phone and her perception of the lack of service provided. She will tell her friends how no one called her back to follow-up, and she will tell everyone how the BlackBerry SO was nothing like it was made out to be.

The art of meeting customer expectations must convey a clear explanation so everyone knows what to expect and find a balance between salespeople and clients. Had the representative clearly explained to my mother what she would need to do to manage the smart phone, she probably would have purchased a simple cell phone with big numbers to make it easier for her to read. Had she known what to expect, she wouldn’t have been as upset.

Make sure customer expectations are fully understood at the start of a purchase or project. Meet with customers, listen attentively to their comments, ask questions as to their expectations, involve them in the decisions, and allow for feedback so you can be sure you have a balance between what you have to do and what you want to do.

photo credit: SimplyAbbey

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