Managing Customer Expectations

Have you ever had customers that expect more from you? Sometimes a customer may request something outside of the service you are able to deliver. Understandably, this can be difficult to manage.

It’s tempting to be overly optimistic and make unrealistic promises in order to keep the customer happy but this isn’t always the right thing to do - especially if you know that these expectations can’t be achieved. The key to keeping your customers happy is by managing customer expectations of what you can do.

Saying ‘no’ to your customers will not necessarily go down well but sometimes it is impossible to avoid. However, there is a way to deal with customers in a positive manner when what they ask for is something unreasonable or unachievable. Often, the reason customers make difficult requests is because they don’t know what they can expect from you.

The best thing to do in this situation is to be clear. Make the customer aware of your rules, policies and generally accepted practices. Remember that just because you know them doesn’t mean your customers will know. It’s best to handle unreasonable requests by managing their expectations. If an issue will take a few days or even weeks to resolve, then let your customer know this – it is better to be transparent from the start than to over-promise, which could lead to disappointment if you can’t meet the customer’s expectations.

So how can you manage your customers’ expectations?

When working in a customer service environment, it is best to be prepared with a variety of solutions to common and potential issues. You can then offer your customers an alternative if they require something that is not possible. It will also help empower the customer by helping them to better understand the complexity of their problem.

Be as transparent as possible to your customers about your organisation’s policies, values and practices. These should be embedded across all public channels, including your website, social media and company literature. You should also train all employees to understand and practice these principles throughout their work. Helping your customers understand these principles too should build trust. If a customer better understands how you solve problems as an organisation, then they will know what to expect if an issue arises and are more likely to be satisfied with how you are handling it.

Sometimes an issue will take longer than expected to resolve. When this happens, it is best to keep your customers in the loop as much as possible. You don’t need to give them all the details, but ensure that you notify them that the problem is still being dealt with and when you expect it to be solved. A follow-up call, email or a notification on your website, which explains how queries are dealt with, will help manage customer’s expectations.

Following-up with your customers after resolution – or even simply touching base to make sure they are satisfied with your service/product – will help build trust and reassure the customer that you are there to help whenever needed. Sometimes customers will expect businesses to follow-up with them shortly after an issue to ‘round off’ the customer experience. Contact them to see if they were happy with your service and how the issue was handled – you may gain valuable feedback.

Managing customer expectations and having clear customer service procedures will not only help keep your customers satisfied, but it can help take the pressure off your staff, build trust with your customers as well as providing clarity to your customers and staff regarding the service you provide.

Of course, not all customer expectations will be unreasonable or unachievable and it’s equally important to make sure your staff know what you can deliver. Even if a customer’s request is currently outside of the service you provide, it could be a consideration for the future. For example, if a retailer receives multiple and repeated requests to implement a delivery service, this may be something they should consider, as it is clearly something their customers want and they may risk losing custom by not considering this avenue. Your customers should be at the heart of everything you do – take on board their feedback and keep an eye on any trends you notice.

About the author

An award-winning advertising graduate, Hazel started at RWA in 2013 as an e-Learning Assistant with a background in design and advertising.

As Senior e-Learning Designer, she uses Articulate  Storyline software to create engaging e-learning content, including bespoke courses for a variety of clients and insurance-based courses for our large insurance clientele. Hazel creates RWA’s eye-catching marketing material.

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