Let me ask you a question. What differentiates companies like Apple, Amazon, Zappos from the rest? Quite simple – the quality of NOT settling for the mediocre. This trait is infused in their daily philosophy of conducting business; successful brands consistently deliver more than what is expected of them and find a way to wow their customers time and again.
Merely satisfying customer expectations is more like playing the safe game. It won’t get you anywhere. Your customers will still be vulnerable to competitors and, say, the moment they find a product in the market that is cheaper than yours, there is a tendency to jump ship. Even if the difference is as less as a few cents.
However, if building your own ardent following is something you desire, then your brand needs to constantly exceed customer expectations and deliver memorable, ever-lasting experiences. In other words, give your best and make sure this best is something they can’t find anywhere else!
Here are 11 simple ways by which any business can look to exceed customer expectations.
1. Collect Customer Feedback
How could you possibly exceed customer expectations without knowing what these expectations are in the first place? How would you know whether your customers like/hate your ambience? How would you know if staff behaviour isn’t something that is bringing your brand reputation down?
All you got to do is ASK. Ask your customers for their feedback. Get to know what their needs are and only then can you figure out their expectations and devise a way to exceed them. Customer feedback, if leveraged correctly, presents a clear picture of what your brand should be doing in order to surpass expectation levels.
2. Focus on the Omni-channel part
As customers become more demanding, they’ve started to explore multiple avenues and channels to interact with businesses. Take a look at this stat given by Business2Community: 50% of Consumers Expect to Buy Online and Be Able Pick Up In-Store.
Omni-channel customer experience is not just the need of the hour but also a concept that most businesses are finding hard to execute, especially given that the modern-day customer is channel hopping at a ridiculous rate. If you truly want to delight customers, omni-channel technology and infrastructure is key. It ensures that the experience you provide across multiple channels – both online and offline – is seamless and consistent and in-sync with your brand reputation.
3. Create a world class Customer Service model
The Customer Service function is a vital clog in the entire CX spectrum. And if there’s one thing that gets your customers riled up, it is following up with multiple customer service reps, constantly repeating the issue/complaint at hand, but still not getting a clear and concrete solution.
Your customer service needs to be world class. And when we say world class, we don’t mean just the quality. It’s about quality service NOW! Customers are looking for instant solutions for their problems. Deliver it on time, without compromising on the quality and you’ve found your path to wowing customers.
4. Institute an impactful employee training program
While employee training and empowerment might not have a direct impact on customer retention or loyalty, if done right, employees will take it upon themselves to ensure that every single customer is kept happy, loyal and delighted.
After all, employees are your internal customers. In many ways, they are even the ‘first bunch of customers’ you need to take care of. Empower them enough and they will gladly represent your brand, fight for it, empathize with end-consumers whenever needed, and more than anything, go above and beyond the status-quo to create a truly amazing experience.
5. Focus on the small things
Often the smallest things make the biggest difference. A smile, a hand shake, a thank you. How are your customers greeted as they step into your store? What is the first thing that your Customer Service rep tells a frustrated customer?
If you think that your customer doesn’t pay enough attention to the details, you’re totally wrong. In fact, things that you consider as trivial, a waste of time and resources can turn out to be the only differentiator between a delightful experience and an average one.
6. Add a personal touch
At the end of the day, customers make that one purchase from you as there is some aspect of your brand they can relate to, and this could be something as simple as the colour of your logo. Each customer is unique, which is why brands need to personalize the customer experience by carefully studying customer needs and aspirations.
So the next time a customer enters your shop, go have a chat with them. Get to know their interests, likes/dislikes and maybe even take them out for a cup of coffee. It might sound like a crazy idea but building an emotional connect with your customer is a sure shot way to exceed their expectations consistently.
7. Follow up with your customers
If there is one thing a lot of brands are guilty of today, it is that they don’t follow up with their customers after a sale. How many of you persistently stay in touch with a customer even after he’s made a purchase?
For starters, capture your customer’s basic contact info – at least their email ID. You do that already? Great. But what do you do with it? How about weekly or bi-weekly newsletters? Include info on upcoming promotions, discounts or offers here. Measures like these project the importance that you allocate for your customers.
8. Surprise your customers often
Surprises can totally make anyone’s day. They provide quite the elation and in most cases, turn a satisfied customer into a delighted one. You might be inclined to ask though, how do you surprise your customers?
Here’s where the data about your customers turns of value. If you know the date on which a customer’s birthday or wedding anniversary falls, send them a personalized greeting along with a cake. Want to do something even cooler? Send the customer a simple, fun video greeting! The ROI of doing such an initiative might not be quantifiable but your customer will forever remember the moment a business that entertains hundreds or thousands of customers each day took time off to wish one particular person.
9. Don’t hesitate to apologize
Let’s face it – even the best of companies have made their fair share of mistakes. Yet, their loyal following doesn’t seem to dwindle, right? This is not peculiar though. The most customer-centric brands have made it a point to apologize outright every time they commit a mistake or let down a customer.
In fact, when a business takes ownership and apologizes sincerely to a customer, the true value of this relationship can be seen. Customers do have empathy and when mistakes are acknowledged, the respect and love they have for their favourite brand only goes up. In fact, they might even go to town promoting you for completely changing their opinion about you!
10. Don’t make a sale. Build a relationship.
A super-busy business milieu means that the likelihood of you not remembering who your last customer was is pretty high. And in times where stakeholders talk sales and revenues figures, the foundation to any successful business model remains looking beyond a sale or transaction – simply building a solid relationship with the customer.
But before you force a latest offering down an existing customer’s throat, do you know whether they are happy purchasing from your company? Don’t be revenue driven. The money will start flowing once you start understanding and caring for your customers. And when you prioritize these relationships like you mean it, customers will eventually start identifying with your brand as a whole, not just with your modish products, and that is when true loyalty and delight kicks in.
11. Find out what’s unique about you and do that over and over again
No company is good at everything. Even the best of the best have carved a separate niche for themselves and attract customers who can clearly relate to this particular niche. Placing your eggs in too many baskets might seem a safe bet, but it only makes your business another also-ran.
Instead, identify what makes your business unique – what makes you ‘YOU’ – and keep improvising this bit at each and every customer interaction/engagement. Beyond the basic things that customers expect from companies, there is always a unique trigger that gets the customer to buy from you. What is it? Is it your staff, your ambience or your delivery service? And once you discover this piece of the puzzle, it becomes easier to give your customers more than what they want.
The hype surrounding customer experience is justifiably real. And if you factor in the competition in the marketspace, unless your company is able to surpass customer expectations and give the customer an authentic and unforgettable experience across every touchpoint on a consistent basis, the chances of survival look very dim. Now, it’s your turn choose between mediocrity and greatness!