You did it! You got the sale. You have a new customer. You probably feel a great sense of accomplishment, and you should! All that work you have done to demonstrate your ability to deliver that which your new customer needs has paid off. Go grab a drink. Celebrate. But tomorrow, we have to get back to work. Our customer has expectations based on what we have promised. And I hope you are not just planning to meet, but also exceed customer expectations. Let me give you 5 ways to exceed customer expectations that I think every company should consider.
Right after I graduated from college, I worked as a server for a couple of years in a restaurant. Most of the money I made was based on receiving great tips. Over the course of my time in that job I learned one very valuable lesson on how to be sure I received a good tip: anticipating the need. A great server is one step ahead of their table. I paid very close attention to one particular need - drinks! The best moment in my dining experience is when a refill of my beverage gets dropped off either right before or just as I am taking that last sip. I remember one time I had a table where a guy must have drank 50 glasses of iced tea while he was there. I was quick on the draw. The guy never took that last sip without me swooping in to refill that iced tea. It paid off very nicely. This is how we have to roll with our customers and clients. We cannot be reactive. We must be proactive, anticipating their needs before they are voiced, and even before they are felt. Our customers should regularly think, "Man, I didn't even think about that, but it is really helpful that you did."
Go Above and Beyond
You are probably thinking, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this". It seems like a no-brainer, right? We all know in order to exceed customer expectations we need to figure out how to deliver not just what we promised, but even more. Let's take a new approach to this age old concept. I encourage you not just to think about generally going above and beyond, but specifically how you're going to do it each time. You and your team need to determine what, for this customer in particular, would be a statement that says "We are aware of your specific needs and desires and are committed to taking our service a step further." What is it that will feel like a big gesture to your client or customer that is a very small thing to you. Be specific, and have a plan to do this for each customer.
Guess what? Newsflash. You are human. Which means, you are going to make mistakes. You will mess up, let your customer down, fail in some way, miss the mark. Plan on it. It is impossible to be perfect all the time. So, that means you are going to have to say you are sorry at some point. It seems so simple, but in my experience with human beings, sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is utter those 3 words, "I am sorry." We need to do it. And when we do it, we need to leave out the excuses, the stretching of the truth, and the blame shifting. Your customer probably expects you to try and wiggle out of your mistakes a little bit. We all do it. So this is actually an area where you can exceed customer expectations by fully owning up to your mistakes and then expressing a plan and true desire to make it right in the future. I know it sounds scary, but you can do it. Just try it. Say you are sorry. Your customer will respect and trust you more for it.
It is costing your customer to work with you. They are paying money, but they are also having to give in some decision making, entrust their brand to someone else, and let go of some control. Their sacrifice goes beyond just paying their invoice. It is good and valuable that you demonstrate that you are making some sacrifices as well. It shows you have some skin in the game. It shows you are laying something on the line too. This will build trust. And, it will exceed their expectations. Your customer is not expecting you to make clear and demonstrated sacrifices beyond what is required. This goes along with going above and beyond, but is slightly different. We want to have a plan to communicate to our customers along the way that we are actually giving something up or losing something in order to best serve them. This kind of service goes a long way with our customers and helps make the complete customer journey a positive experience.
This is something more directed at B2B companies. We work with other businesses on their marketing, so this is the world we live in every day. I have the privilege of working very closely with a few of our customers, spending regular time each week connecting with them as we manage their marketing funnels. One of my greatest goals is that they would feel like I am one of their employees, sitting in a desk in their office, part of the team, on the inside. I do not want any of my customers to feel like I am a remote, disconnected, corporate account manager. I want them to feel like I am taking ownership in their brand. If they teach underwater basket weaving, then I am into that. I care about it. I learn about it. I think and act as though I too own and operate a world class underwater basket weaving company and I want all the world to dive down and weave baskets as part of their own journey to self discovery. I have to decide to care about my customer's brand as though it is my own. This is a level of engagement that will exceed customer expectations like nothing else. I encourage you to put on a wetsuit, get some basketry reed and weaving cane, and dive in to the deep end!