Expectations

Exceeding Expectations

Outside of my hours at Messages On Hold, I have a little creative side project that occupies my time and I recently ordered some promotional materials for it from a popular print house.

Now, this print house is no louse when it comes to customer service. They have successfully implemented an online ordering system that allows you to upload your own designs and place orders safe in the knowledge that things like overrun bleed lines won’t ruin the batch. You used to have to drive down to the store, talk to a printer representative and even pay a file handling fee. Now it’s done from the comfort of your own home. They also offer predesigned promotional material that you can customise and it’s all competitively priced.  After placing your order, you’re offered significant discounts if you buy something else within half an hour. Very clever. These guys are on the ball… mostly.

My order was for 30 pages of promotional stickers. A week later I had received 2 packs of 10, so I called to inform them of the mistake. The customer service representative was efficient and competent. I explained the situation and she concluded on the spot that there must’ve been an error and that she would send through the remainder of the order.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

This company has empowered their customer reps to make these kinds of decisions without looking to a superior. Big tick, Kym Illman would approve. They’re also banking on the fact that they did actually stuff up and I wasn’t just trying to scam them out of another 10 pages. The cost of being scammed was significantly less than the cost of possibly insulting a paying customer. The call wrapped up and I received an email saying the package would be express delivered.

Good job, right? Almost. I was a frustrated customer, they admitted fault and now I’m back to where I started with a little lost time and some mild frustration. Will I go back to them? Maybe… sure they fixed the mistake as soon as they found out about it, but maybe one of their many competitors won’t stuff up the first time. I have nothing to lose by trying someone else.

Instead, imagine if the conversation ended like this:

“Please accept our apologies for the missing pages. We’ll quickly get those 10 pages out to you.  We would also like to send you a further 10 pages for any inconvenience that may have been caused.”

I suspect those extra 10 pages would’ve cost them very little to print and they would’ve likely gained a delighted lifelong customer whose expectations had been clearly exceeded.

When faced with a disgruntled customer, realise you’re being presented with an opportunity. It’s a rare case of someone actively engaging with your business with an explicit expectation. Take that expectation by the horns and run with it. You’ll find delighted customers are great for business.

– Jakub

How To Be A Customer 101

As service providers, we go to great lengths to ensure we take care of our customers, but what about when the shoe is on the other foot? When we find ourselves as customers, how can we get the best possible service?

Before a company can commit to exceeding your expectations, they need to know what you expect!  So, let your service provider know. It seems so simple, but how many transactions result in disgruntled customers simply because the business representative did not have an accurate picture of the customers’ expectations?

What are your expectations as a customer?

What are your expectations as a customer?

Sure, you can argue this is the business’ responsibility and we’d agree with you. But maybe this example will encourage you to make your expectations known. We were working on a video production and noticed a faulty bit of equipment. This equipment did not come cheap and this fault was certainly unbecoming of the reputable manufacturer.

So we emailed the manufacturer stating the problem. The manufacturer’s representative promptly responded advising us to call the Australian distributor. We had dealt with this particular distributor in the past over the phone and our experiences were… disappointing. Naturally, this was frustrating news to receive. But how was the manufacturer to know?

We responded by writing, calmly but firmly, that this particular distributor had been unhelpful and unpleasant to deal with and as such we were not keen to contact them again. We asked for another alternative. They suggested we ship it. When we said that would be too expensive, they said they would ship a new unit and for us to send back the faulty one. Even though this was an international company, the issue was sorted within four days.

Would it have been better if they had a more professional Australian distributor? Absolutely, but consider how this transaction might have gone if we hadn’t made our expectations of customer service explicitly clear. Our faulty unit would have gone in for costly repairs and the manufacturer would have probably lost a customer.

This doesn’t mean you should be a prima donna. Sales people are astutely aware of customers who demand excessive service at a minimal price and quickly discard them as a vocal nuisance. It’s often extremely uneconomical to try to please these divas. Instead, make your reasonable expectations clear. Smart companies will see this as an opportunity to impress you.

Next time you’re a customer, think back to the customers you’ve impressed. Chances are their expectations were clear and you knew exactly how to exceed them.

– Jakub