Knowing what customers expect is the first and arguably most important element in delivering quality service. But sometimes finding out what your clients want is more difficult than it seems. Companies constantly make mistakes when designing their customer service offering and the biggest errors have been identified to be:
- Not knowing what customers expect
- Setting poor quality standards
- Service-performance gap (when there is a substantial difference in the service specifications and the actual service delivery)
- Discrepancy between promised service quality and an actual delivery
Why do businesses commit these – seemingly obvious – mistakes time and time again? Many of them conduct thorough research and follow industry best practices. Many of them have full-time customer service teams and rigorously review customer feedback, but still fail in the service offering department.
Playing it Safe
The concept of providing outstanding customer service is what most businesses in the world are trying to achieve, but the way they approach it is different. Ask yourself: is your customer service offering designed to deliver the best possible experience for the customer, or to simply minimise the risk of customer being dissatisfied? There is a huge difference between these two approaches.
The reason why so many businesses fail at exceeding or even merely meeting their customers’ expectations is that they almost solely focus on eradicating complaints. The fear of displeasing the customer is so prevalent that organisations prioritise eliminating the customer’s pain at company touchpoint. In the age of social media, this obsession with minimising risks, rather than maximising the level of pleasure clients may receive from their engagement with the company, is understandable. However, this “play safe” attitude ultimately leads to consistent mediocrity and unspectacular – although often satisfactory – experience for the buyers. While getting rid of bad experiences can indeed lead to reduced complaints, it also means that customers are unlikely to build an emotional bond with the brand, resulting in few of them sticking around in the future.
Think about your electricity provider. Are they reliable? Probably, yes. Very much so, in fact. Are they different from any other electricity provider, apart from rates? No. You will switch to another, cheaper electricity provider in a heartbeat, as soon as they offer you better rate, despite not having any complaints with your current one.
On the other hand, businesses that realise that today’s customer journey doesn’t consist of just a couple of interactions with the brand, but is much more complex, are able to create very special relationships with their target segments. They understand that they don’t just sell the product, but create stories that will last for many years to come.
Take hospitality industry, for example. Last year my friend was travelling to a business conference by train. The journey would take over five hours, so the decision was made to arrive there the night before to be fully rested the next day. The small B&B which he booked was no different than any other, apart from great reviews. Upon booking, he was contacted by the owner via email, asking if he needed anything arranged for the room and what time shall they expect his arrival. When he provided them the time of his train arrival, they kindly proposed to collect him at the train station. On the day of his journey he was again contacted by text as a confirmation. By the time his train was coming into the station, the owner was waiting at the platform. This small personal touch might not be unique to B&Bs, but it certainly left him very impressed. How do you think I have heard of this story?
Gain Advantage with the Experiential Factor
It is important to take into account that the decision by the consumers to engage with the business comes long before the first contact is made. Social media, word of mouth, online reviews, experience with products from competitors, perception of the product and much more – this all matters when it comes to making the decision to buy. This is the reason why stories and memories are so crucial in today’s business world. Your objective as an entrepreneur is not to sell a product, but to provide an experience. The only way to do that is to focus on maximising pleasure and taking certain risks through experimentation and empowering staff to show initiative.
The thought of not following a strict protocol and giving staff free reign when it comes to delivering outstanding customer care might be scary to many business owners, but building a long-lasting emotional connection has been shown to deliver immense benefits. The experiential factor has been on the rise for the past decade for good reason – it is what makes a business stand out and generates customer loyalty. Customers don’t tell stories about normal, but they make sure to endorse something they deeply care about. Whether or not you can be that company is completely up to you.