Jeff’s Guide to Managing Customer Expectations

Any reputable company will tell you that customers are your lifeblood–without them, your business can’t exist.  It’s crucial to keep them happy, and a large part of that is managing their expectations. When I first started working in this field I underestimated just how important expectation management can be to customer satisfaction but I quickly learned from my managers to always keep this idea in the back of my mind.

Imagine your experiences at various restaurants: if you’re stopping for a quick bite to eat at a fast food restaurant, you’re (typically) expecting low quality food, but you’re expecting it to arrive quickly and not put a sizable dent in your wallet. If you’re booking reservations at a Michelin star restaurant, the exact opposite would be true.  However, in both situations, it’s possible to be completely satisfied with the product and service you receive simply because of the different expectations that you started with.

Although it’s a different situation, the same concept can be applied to providing software support-a large part of how happy customers are with your company is due to the expectations that are initially set and then either met or not met on a regular basis. While it’s important to always strive to provide the highest level of support possible, it’s also extremely important to set realistic expectations. Here are a few of the things I like to keep in mind in order to better manage our customers’ expectations:

  • Consistency is key.  Providing fantastic service one day and poor service the next will frustrate your customers, since they’ve come to expect a certain standard. Making yourself available to assist a customer after normal support hours will set the expectation that someone will always be available to do provide immediate assistance, regardless of the time of day. Make sure that’s a commitment you can follow through on, every time.
  • Always mind how you word things.  Sugar coating may make things sounds better to your customers, but if it leads to the impression that you’ve promised something and failed to deliver, you’ll just end up looking bad. You should always be kind, helpful, and accommodating but don’t feel pressured to say or promise anything that you can’t back up. A temporarily frustrated customer now is better than an enraged customer in the future.
  • Make it clear what you can and can’t assist with. While always trying to help your customers as much as you can sounds like a great idea, providing partial assistance with things you’re not familiar with isn’t.  Unless you’re prepared to take full responsibility for any consequences or you’re equipped to continue assisting with that issue going forward (see the first bullet!), it’s best to have them contact the appropriate support team for help.
  • Make sure your customers are kept in the loop. This is a rather broad statement, but it’s an important thing to remember-nobody likes being left in the dark, especially when a product or service they’re paying money for is involved. Even a quick note, letting them know you’re still working on their issue, will reassure your customer that they haven’t been forgotten and are still a priority for you. Expectations for great customer service are higher than ever and, thanks to technology and social media advancements, there are a ton of quick, easy methods and tools to keep your customers “in the know.”

I highly recommend sharing these tips with new employees at any company, as they can help expedite the growth from rookie to seasoned veteran in the customer service world.  Every company has different support procedures, but these concepts should be universal whether you’re in fast food or software development.  What are some ways you’ve failed to meet customer expectations?  What are ways you try to meet them on a daily basis?

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One thought on “Jeff’s Guide to Managing Customer Expectations

  1. Pingback: Supporting New Software? No Problem. | Algonquin Studios Blog

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