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Posted: January 25, 2013

Four great ways to exceed customer expectations

Going above and beyond

Shawn Adamson

Friendly employees and service, personalized solutions and the ability to easily find information are the top three attributes consumers seek in companies they work with, according to a recent Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report.

While these attributes may seem basic, they are often overlooked. In a recent article in Entrepreneur, Richard Branson explains the paradox of simply meeting expectations: Consider a situation where a customer who has had a bad prior experience comes in with very low expectations. When a client anticipates that service will be lousy and that's precisely what they get, then technically their expectations have been met.

Even if customer expectations are set at a standard level, simply meeting that standard isn’t enough with today’s consumers. Instead, the goal should be to exceed those standards. The best way to do this is through superior customer service and interactions.  If you’d like your business to truly stand out for its customer service, here are four habits you should adopt, if you haven’t already:

Get to Know Your Customer before Offering a Solution

Getting to know your customers is critical. While conducting market research and surveys are good tactics, the best way to get to know your customers is through actual interactions such as in-person visits, hosted events and real-time conversations.

When Comcast recently had the opportunity to partner with Galvanize, a company that provides capital, community and curriculum to Denver’s leading entrepreneurs and startups, we wanted to deliver a Metro Ethernet solution that specifically fit their unique needs. After all, tailored Internet solutions are what Galvanize is all about: it is created to launch breakout start-ups  while building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

To really understand the needs of Galvanize, we visited the space multiple times. We asked lots of questions, visited with their clients and truly listened to the answers. From these conversations, we found that for entrepreneurs, super-fast, scalable and reliable Internet connectivity is second only to coffee in terms of importance.  During our visits we also quickly learned how important the Galvanize relationship would be to potential future business – the companies that benefit from what Galvanize has to offer will likely need a similar solution at their own place of business at some point., Through this, we were able to take our learnings and customize a Metro Ethernet solution that fit just what Galvanize and their clients needed to be successful today and in the future.

Go Just a Little Bit Further

Going the extra mile in service also leads to a satisfied customer.  As an example, according to a recent Journal of Psychology study, waiters at a restaurant were asked to personally deliver extra mints to a table along with the check. With this small extra step, the waiters were able to increase tips by 23 percent. 

In your business, think about what can be done to take that extra step: maybe a small gift on your client’s birthday, surprise free shipping, a handwritten thank you note or an occasional call from a leader in your company, just to check in. These small steps and surprises will make a big difference. Whenever possible, deliver that extra mint!

Embrace Feedback

To ensure that you’re exceeding customer standards, it’s important to request and listen to feedback. According to Lee Resource Inc., for every customer complaint, 26 unsatisfied customers have remained silent. While you don’t know it, these silent customers are considering switching providers and aren’t referring you to others. If you can reach these customers to learn about and address their negative experiences, you won’t only preserve the relationship but gain valuable information that can help your business improve.

Conduct surveys, use social media, call your customers, have a feedback section on your website and ensure your frontline staff is asking for feedback.  People like to share their experiences. All you have to do is ask!

Don’t Forget the Basics

While customers care about fast service, what they value most is good service. You can deliver the most exciting product or service on the planet, but if you forget the basics of customer satisfaction—competitive pricing, customer care and reliability—you’re still not meeting client needs.

According to the CEI Report, customers cited “rude, incompetent and rushed” service as their No. 1 reason to abandon a brand, 18 percent more often than “slow” service, or service that might take a bit longer but truly addresses the complaint. Make sure you're available to answer questions, that your website is up to date and easily navigable and that your customer-facing employees are responsive, empathetic and competent.

Remember, these basics are what build and maintain your reputation.

Shawn Adamson, the Vice President of Commercial Business Services for Comcast’s Mile High Region, is responsible for developing and implementing Comcast's innovative commercial services offerings in the small, medium and enterprise business markets. She leads Comcast as it continues to deliver new technologies and services to its business customers, including the launch of Metro Ethernet. She has nearly 20 years of management experience in sales and operations. Shawn can be reached by email at shawn_adamson@cable.comcast.com

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Leaving extra mints for a bigger tip is manipulative, not an example of exceeding customer expectations. There are many tricks that wait staff know, and they aren't for the customer - but the personal gain of the waiter. Be genuine, or don't waste my time. By Waiter on 2013 01 29
In every industry you are constantly competing against people who have the same product as you. The only thing most companies have that sets them apart is customer service. It's the best sales tool you can have. I will be adding this article to the list of reading I train my new employees with. By Cindy Kent on 2013 01 25
I really wish you had not published this. Now my competitors will know how easy it is to be in business. Listen and give customers what they want while treating them like people. That was supposed to be a trade secret. Harvard Business Review has an article right now about a new sales paradigm addressing just this set of ideas. It points out that all the expertise and fancy tech we offer and use is now just the cost of entry. CODB as the old business books wrote. The problems we solve the value we add with these tools now that is the secret sauce. By Doug McIntire on 2013 01 25
Well said! 3 days ago my expectations were blown away with a Comcast customer service rep. I felt heard and completely taken care of. That type of customer service makes me a happy and loyal customer. Liz By liz wendling on 2013 01 25
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