How To Manage Your Customers' Expectations
People management is not just about your staff, it also applies to your customers. And just like good employees are gold, loyal customers are precious and you cannot afford to let them down. But we all know that people (yes, most of us) have high, sometimes even unreasonable expectations and businesses that give excuses for their shortcomings cannot seriously expect to retain customers for long. How then can you navigate this conundrum and keep your customers satisfied without running your business into the ground?
1. First, be clear about what your business can and cannot do.
Your customers' expectations of your business are often based on your promises. State your offering(s) clearly and be transparent about where lines are drawn. The FAQs page on your business website is a good place for such clarity. Don't make promises you cannot keep. Equally bad is saying nothing, leaving room for customers to make assumptions about how far your business will go to satisfy them. Set a standard you can always meet. It is better to exceed expectations than to fall short of them because the standard was beyond your capacity. For example, a retail business that claims to deliver orders in two to three days but actually means two to three working days has set itself up for clashes with its customers.
2. Always communicate.
In business, things change often and sometimes at a moment's notice. But no matter how sudden a change is, you are obligated to tell your customers about it immediately. Open multiple lines of communications for your customers' convenience: at least one dedicated phone number and an email address. If you have the capacity, add social media channels (particularly Facebook and Twitter) and an instant messaging service like WhatsApp. Customers will typically react to your communication. Provide prompt and useful answers to their follow-up questions.
3. Be reliable.
Your relationship with your customers is based on trust and breaking their trust isn't something your business can recover from easily. Keeping trust begins from setting a standard you can maintain. Customers need to know that your business is reliable, delivering the same quality every time. Convince them that you're trustworthy and they'll keep trusting you with their money.
As it is with managing people, listening is a vital ingredient of a successful relationship with your customers. Listen on the phone, listen on social media, listen when you have conversations in person and 'listen' to what they are saying with their nonverbal actions. The best way to learn about your customers is from them directly, not from some random survey conducted two continents away. Make it easy for them to give feedback and encourage them to do so regularly. Everyone needs to know that they are heard.
What have you done to successfully manage your customers' expectations? Share your tip in the comments section below or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're waiting to hear from you.