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Marketing / Customer service

Managing customer expectations

Good customer service is about managing customer expectations. My recent experience with a multinational cosmetics firm provides a textbook lesson on how not to treat your customers.

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I wrote a straightforward query via a contact form on their website. On hitting ‘send’, I got the message “Thank you for your query. We will get back in touch soon.”

Several months later, I haven’t heard a thing. Clearly they don’t feel I’m worth it.

It’s not that I wasn’t contacted that annoys me, it was that they told me they would get in touch and didn’t.

No matter what size of business you operate, you are responsible for managing customer expectations by accurately informing your customers of your availability.

The first step is to review what channels of communication you make available. If your business card includes your landline, mobile and email, then you must be prepared to handle all interaction that follows.

Want more articles like this? Check out the customer service section.

Don’t fall into what Robert calls the ‘always available’ trap by giving customers every option because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t. A phone number that goes unanswered is more damaging to your business than an unpublished one.

"No matter what size of business you operate, you are responsible for managing customer expectations by accurately informing your customers of your availability."

Unless you’re in the business of saving lives, most customers don’t mind you not being available 24/7. What’s troublesome is the pretence of availability unmatched by reality, a la “Thank you for your query. We will get back in touch soon.”

Being clear and upfront with new customers is a helpful way of managing customer expectations. “I handle phone calls in the afternoon” and “You can expect a response to emails within 48 hours” give a better impression than creating a “I’ll get right back to you” expectation you’re unable to meet.

Are you skilled at setting and managing your customers expectations? Or is your business awash with ambiguity over your availability?

Let us know.

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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