By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
We hear much today about delighting our customers. This is an admirable goal, and every business should strive to do so. We must acknowledge, however, that this is not sustainable. We may delight customers upon occasion, but to expect we’ll succeed in every interaction will leave us falling short of their increasingly higher standards.
Each time we do something that excites our customers, we set the bar higher for next time. What delights them today and gets them to tell their friends about us will soon fade into the recesses of normalcy. Then, when we can’t meet their newly heightened expectations, we have much further to fall and their disappointment will be all that much greater.
Instead, we should set a more realistic goal. Though it’s not exciting or compelling, we should aim simply to meet customer expectations. Though this sounds boring, don’t dismiss the idea too fast. Many customer service interactions fall short—sometimes far short—of meeting customers’ expectations.
Meeting expectations is sustainable and is good business.
Do you know someone who left one company because of service issues and then left the new company for the same reason? Once they have used and dismissed each company, their new goal is to pick the least objectionable one.
They no longer pursue the best option. Instead, they seek the one that is least bad, returning to a former unsatisfactory provider. This produces a revolving door of customer churn, whereas a better goal is to keep existing customers.
Does any company provide quality service anymore? The good news is yes, and I celebrate this whenever possible. Yet for each positive example, it’s usually not the company but one person who made the difference. They cared about me and had a genuine interest in the outcome. I was their priority, and they did what the situation required.
Every company claims they offer quality service, but is it real or fantasy? Is a personal connection provided to customers? Can you say, believe, and prove that your company delivers quality service? If you can’t, what changes do you need to make?
Throughout my career, from the jobs I’ve held, businesses I’ve managed, and companies I’ve owned, a consistent thread has been customer service in one form or another. Yet I’m not writing about my experiences in providing customer service, for we are our own worst judges of success. And I’ll admit to having fallen short too many times.
A Lifetime of Experience
Though sharing a lifetime of experience in providing customer service would offer useful input, it would only draw from the businesses I’ve owned and managed. Instead, in these posts I cover something I have much more experience with. Not in providing, but in receiving customer service—and in not receiving it.
We can glean a far better perspective by looking at a lifetime of receiving customer service. This provides a greater array of consideration, offering a more comprehensive approach that most customer service books miss.
I am a consumer. As someone who purchases products and services, I often need support after the sale. I need customer service. I’ll share the times that left me appalled or produced discouragement. Yet I’ll also share those times—albeit not as common—when I experienced customer satisfaction.
Customer service opportunities occur in three arenas. These are in person, over the telephone, and online. None functions in isolation. Each type of customer-focused communication informs our expectations in the other formats. Regardless of the communication channel, whether we’re speaking face to face, talking on the phone, or interacting over the internet, we deal with the same issues and desire the same outcomes.
It’s my hope that these posts will provide you with helpful customer service insights that will encourage you to do better and celebrate what you do best. Let us meet our consumers’ expectations every chance we get.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.