Managing Your Customer’s Expectations

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Customers can be extremely demanding and it is ‘Sod’s Law’ that they always want something you haven't got. They want it but in a different color, they want it but in a different size or they want it but at half the price. Sometimes you can never satisfy people and you begin to think that your business would be much nicer without your customers!

However, it is your customer expectations that can drive your business forward and help it to thrive and succeed but how do you manage your customer's expectations and retain your sanity at the same time?

What are their expectations?

Until you know what your customers want, you're not really in a position to give it to them, yet many business owners just assume they know best and wonder why they can't get sales. The obvious way to find out what your customers want is to ask them.

A good way to do this is by asking customers to fill in surveys or evaluation forms wherever possible but you can also make a regular habit of asking them. Get your staff to ask your customers what their three top expectations are -- is it good customer service, quality products and services, fair prices? Find a way to ask them without being a nuisance -- for example, if you run a high street store, you could get your staff to simply chat more during a sales transaction and extract the information indirectly, or you could send an e-mail with an easy reply tick box form and the promise of 10 percent of their next purchase as a thank you, or you could call them as a courtesy following their purchase to see if they were happy and ask them what their expectations were. You could have a list of possible answers to choose from and ask people to rate their top three. Expectations could include:

Competitive prices

Efficient service

Friendly service

Being treated politely and with respect

Quality products

Plenty of stock

Phone calls and e-mails being answered promptly

Promises being kept

Clean and well maintained premises

Follow-up service or a thank you

Well-trained staff

Expertise and appropriate qualifications

Respond to your customers’ needs

Once you have a good idea of what your customers want, you should evaluate the answers and see how your business shapes up to meeting these expectations. For example, if your customers consistently put well-trained staff at the top of their list, you should focus on trading your staff to an even higher level and making this a USP for your business. This can make you very competitive. Look at all the ways in which your business could do better in terms of meeting your customer's expectations and ask also if they are realistic.

Some customers will just be extremely demanding and expect far too much, others will expect very little but with a large enough sample size, there will be a core of expectations that consistently come to the top and these are the ones you need to review and take action to implement.

Feedback to your customers

Once you have implemented any changes based on what your customers expect, let them know that you have listened to them. This can go a long way to developing customer loyalty and your effort will be well rewarded when your customers return for more, spend more and generate referrals and recommendations.

All this is well worth the small effort it takes to ask your customers what they want and to manage their expectations, it also goes a long way to helping you develop your business successfully, give it longevity and make you stand out from your competitors.