Keeping customers happy comes down to one thing: managing expectations.
When someone says, “I just had a terrific experience,” what they are really saying is the business met, or even exceeded, their expectations. In their mind, long before they spoke with someone from the company, they imagined what they were about to encounter. They had a general sense of how the company was going to treat them, speak to them, take care of them, educate them, etc. And every step of the way, they judged the experience the business was providing them with the imagined experience they had in their head before they’d even reached out.
When the imagined experience and the actual experience align, the customer is happy.
When the imagined experience and the actual experience do not align, the customer is unhappy.
For the past 40 years, I have been building businesses by focusing on 3 keys to creating a memorable customer experience.
These were Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies and contact center technology companies, both of which are heavily reliant upon your ability to meet and exceed customer expectations
The customer’s experience is the “product.”
Two of those businesses—800 Direct and Monet Software—were successfully acquired. At 800 Direct, our specialty was helping major companies scale their customer service departments, and do so in a way that seamlessly integrated with each company’s unique approach to servicing their customers. Because managing customer expectations for a small business is one thing, but managing expectations for hundreds of thousands, even millions of customers all over the world, is entirely another.
If you want to attract, build, and nurture positive relationships with your customers, these are the 3 keys I highly recommend implementing into your business.
1. Expectations are set within your marketing materials—so set expectations accordingly.
The customer’s journey starts the moment they arrive at your website, the moment they read your business card, the moment they receive an email newsletter from your company. Anything and everything you show them, in some way or another, reinforces an expectation. If you can deliver upon the expectations you are setting, then you’re in business. But if you are giving customers the impression of a personalized luxury experience, and what you’re offering is built for bulk and scale, then you have a mismatch problem—and people are going to be very unhappy.
As the saying goes, “It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver.”
Obviously, there are tipping points on both sides of the spectrum—you don’t want to underpromise so much that nobody wants to buy what you’re selling, and you don’t want to overdeliver so much that you skew future expectations. But all in all, it’s far better to meet a customer’s expectations than to overpromise, get them in the door, and then let them down.
2. You aren’t ever selling a product or service. You’re providing a solution to a clearly identified problem.
Sales become a whole lot easier as soon as you realize you aren’t “selling” anything.
The reason people buy what they buy in the world, for the most part, comes down to problem-solving. Someone has a problem (“My floor is always dirty”) and so they go out and try to find a solution (a mop, a broom, a robot vacuum cleaner).
When we launched Monet Software, a SaaS solution for workforce optimization, we recalled what the day-to-day experience of a contact center manager was like, having previously been in the business. Their scheduling processes were probably taking hours, days or weeks, and were horribly inefficient. Then, when they would send out work schedules the next day, someone would call out sick and they’d have to go back to the beginning and re-do a lot of work manually.
We made a long list of all these problems—and then we spoke to how different this manager would feel if, instead of problems, he or she had solutions.
His or her “experience,” then, wasn’t just buying a product. It was adopting a solution.
I’m sure this sounds like simple advice, but it’s the thing so many entrepreneurs end up forgetting along the way. They get caught up trying to sell, instead of starting with the more important question, which is, “What’s the customer struggling with, and how can I help?”
3. Automation should never mean forgetting to meet the customer’s expectations.
A lot of entrepreneurs and businesses make the mistake of thinking that just because they’ve created an automated software tool to solve the customers’ problems, suddenly the human aspect can fall by the wayside. They start to focus on new tools and features to make the product more robust and end up deviating from what customers actually want.
In reality, every piece of software should be inspired by a problem the customer is facing.
Again, in my case, having first built a full-service contact center, I was intimately familiar with the challenges of running that type of business and kept them as our North Star as we built a SaaS Workforce Optimization solution for the industry.
What you don’t want to happen is to create a software tool that distances you further and further from understanding the customer, so much so that they no longer feel “taken care of.” They will feel misunderstood, their expectations won’t match the experience you are providing them and, before you know it, they’ll start to look elsewhere.