Expectations…according to the Encarta Dictionary that comes with Microsoft Word, are:
1. Anticipation of something happening
2. Notion of something (mental image)
3. Expected standard
We all have expectations. One is of how people should behave in different situations such as at work, in social settings or at home. The expectation of work behavior can also change based on the industry or profession. Hearing swear words on a construction site may not surprise us at all. However hearing the same words spoken in an office may cause us to raise an eyebrow. Some homes do not allow alcohol consumption, in others it is an everyday, commonplace activity.
Another expectation is what the outcome should be from a series of events such as graduating from high school or college. Or working for one company for many years and moving up the corporate ladder.
Finally we have expectations of what something should look like. We create a scenario in our head and are disappointed if reality doesn’t match our mental image. This mental image may be based on facts, or it may be based on hopes and dreams. In either case we create expectations based on the image we’ve created.
So what has all of this to do with Customer Service? Everything!
As business people / customer service representatives it is important for us to understand our customers’ expectations. Why are they coming into ‘my’ store? What need do they have that I can fill for them? What is the basis for the complaint they are filing? Is it real (such as a blender that doesn’t blend), or is it based on faulty expectations of the product, such as I can use ‘this’ blender as a food processor?
Mis-understanding expectations happens all the time. And sometimes it is not the business’s fault at all, but it is the fault of the consumer. We expect all blenders to work as food processors because we had one years ago that did. Or we expect all businesses in the same field to work the same hours or have the same policies.
I keep running into this one because I bank with two different banks. Recently I was catching up with my bookkeeping on a Sunday. One of my banks had bankers available in the call center to answer customer questions. The other didn’t. I got angry at the bank that didn’t. Problem is that I have used this bank for about 10 years and have tried to reach their call center on other Sundays. I KNOW that they aren’t open on Sundays – but I got angry just same. In all honesty most of that anger was frustration at myself for getting angry over something that I already knew. Vicious circle… But it happens all too often. And when we’re not honest with ourselves we blame the business.
So what can we do? Well when I did call my not-open-on-Sunday bank on Monday, I politely
told them that I would really appreciate it if they were open on Sunday and pointed out to them that one of their major competitors was. I also mentioned that I felt pretty sure that I wasn’t the only small business person who played catch-up on Sunday doing some of the more mundane chores of running a business such as the accounting.
Will my comments be heard? I don’t know. I’ve had this conversation with them on other occasions and they still aren’t open on Sunday. Maybe I am the only business person who does accounting on Sundays???
But what is important here is that I manage my expectations. As a consumer I need to educate myself about policies (hours of operations) and procedures (how long I have to make a return) of the companies I do business with on a regular basis. So long as they are doing everything right by posting their hours in visible locations and clearly stating what their return policy is – then I have no cause to get angry at them (or myself) over something like their being closed on Sunday.
Actually there is a part of me that thinks all businesses should be closed on Sunday and holidays. But that is a discussion for another time
And for the businesses? It is important for the business to walk a mile in our customers’ shoes. So that we can anticipate customer expectations and not just meet them, but exceed them. This includes simple things such as clearly posting, in easy to see and read the basic information that customers want and need. Don’t just say everything is on the website. Basic info such as store hours needs to be clearly posted for all to see.
But then think about the little things. Those ‘needs’ that the customer has for coming to us, rather than our competitor. What can we do to fulfill those needs? Often times it is as simple as being welcoming and helpful – without being pushy. Or having fresh flowers on the counter for all to enjoy. Or finding that hard-to-find product / color / size that our client is looking for. It is letting each person who enters our door (be it brick and motor or virtual) that they are special, appreciated and valued.
If you aren’t sure what your customers’ expectations are? Ask them. And be prepared to take action on their responses.
Please share your thoughts below.