Friday, 3 February 2017

Effective Customer Service - Managing Customer Expectations

Managing Expectations
The key to effective customer service is the alignment of expectations. If you order a Margarita pizza you don't want to have to be picking off the pineapple when it arrives!
Mr T's car recently developed a fault and promptly stopped working, luckily for him, in the middle of a large car park. Okay, he thought, Sunday afternoon, it's not like he needs to be anywhere. After all he had breakdown cover that would make everything okay, or so he thought. The call went well, the ETA of the patrol vehicle was acceptable so too was the proximity of a set of golden arches where he promptly bought a large burger. This has got to make things better, he thought?
It's here! he announced after waiting 40 minutes only to find that the patrol officer was also wooed by the golden arches. 20 minutes, a burger, coffee and a doughnut later he drove the 100 yards over to his vehicle. Mr T? Yes, Mr T optimistically confirmed, the patrol officer promptly got to work. Another 20 minutes later he confirmed it would have to be towed. 'Okay', Mr T said, 'I would like it towed to my home as being a Sunday I'm not sure which garage to take it to without speaking to somebody'. The patrol officer promptly told him that he wasn't covered for this and would have to pay another 100.00. 'Hang on a second', exclaimed Mr T, 'I thought my cover allowed me to get to wherever I want'. The long and short of it was that the service provider had changed and so had the level of cover. Mr T was left with no choice but to pay up the 100.00 to get home. The patrol officer also informed him that he would have to pay another 85.00 to get towed to the garage on Monday. Mr T paid the 100.00 to upgrade the policy.
It's Monday, Mr T calls the breakdown people to arrange for the vehicle to be towed, however the fault had seemed to disappear overnight, or so he thought. He explained this to the breakdown call centre person A, they said because the car would start they would not send anyone out even though he had said the fault was intermittent, the engine would just cut out unexpectedly. After consulting with his partner he promptly called the breakdown people back and spoke with breakdown call centre person B, they said try to drive the car to the garage, if the car breaks down again they would come out. Mr T thought this sounded okay, though a little apprehensive about driving a car that may just stop. So he set off and just as he got to a junction the engine cut out, he managed to restart it and get to somewhere safe where he called the recovery people again. This time he spoke to breakdown person C, by the tone of her voice, though this was the first time she had ever spoken to me, he was clearly an inconvenience before he had even spoken. She made it very clear that he could not call them out again as it was an existing fault, 'but, but', said Mr T, 'that's not what person B said'. After minutes of explaining the situation and his case she reluctantly relented and sent a patrol officer, who couldn't find anything wrong with the car. Mr T got the car to the garage by driving with the patrol van behind him.
On returning home he promptly requested a refund for the upgraded policy, pledging the amount to cover the cost of towing the vehicle.
Mr T got the car fixed eventually, an electrical fault...
Misalignment of Mr T's Expectations
Mr T's Expectations
His cover would allow him to be towed to another destination, his home at the very least
Company's Actions
New policy does not cover him for what he wants. We told him about this so its his fault for not knowing, we can sell him additional cover for 100.00
Mr T's Expectations
He was in trouble and needed to feel that somebody could help
Company's Actions
New policy does not cover him for what he wants. We told him about this so it's his fault for not knowing, we can sell him additional cover for 100.00
Mr T's Expectations
He wanted to hand the problem over to somebody with experience in this who could make some effective decisions to get him back to the garage
Company's Actions
Will tell him that we can't help him because the fault is the same. We will then tell him to drive the car and call us again to get rescued. We will then tell him that you can't call us again, it's the same fault, we will have to charge you. We will then tell him we will send somebody out. Confused?
Feeling Valued
It's vital that you feel valued and an important factor in the customer-client relationship after all the customer is a stakeholder. Mr T's expectations were not only missed but ignored and not cared about. If they had listened to what the real problem was, i.e. not the broken down car but the fact he was being told one thing but experiencing another through no fault of his own, then perhaps he would have felt more comfortable about the whole situation and parting with the extra money. For example an approach like:
'It appears you have not been informed of the change of Service Level, we apologise about that. On this occasion we cannot help you to get home but these are your options. Be aware that if you do not take the option of a tow to a garage now you will have to pay extra to get towed again. '
Consistency of service shows a client that there is a level of care, a standard that is systematically maintained. Mr T was told differing things on multiple occasions. He was told yes he could call the break down service out again. Then the next agent said he couldn't. The next said drive the car as far as he could then call again. The next agent said he would have to pay again as he had called them about the same fault. There was no clear structure in place for him to look to build trust with the company, to say
'These guys are the professionals'
'I trust what they say'
'I respect what they are asking me to do'
It is critical to have rigid Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to provide staff with a framework to work from to provide a consistent level of customer care. This is the first step in managing a customer's expectations. For example,
'I know when I call the breakdown company that I will be told the name of the patrol officer and the ETA, this gives reassurance that they are on the case'
Staff should be made aware of the importance of managing expectations through listening and reporting back to company to affect a change to an ill performing SOP. eg.
'The patrol officer always turns up 15 minutes after the ETA'.
This could be a fault with the process used to determine this ETA. This could be fixed and hey presto that expectation is met, customer's expectations are aligned with the client's service offering. The customer is not left to make up their own mind why the ETA is being missed.
There is always a good reason why the customer is upset with the client. 99.9% of the time is because their expectations are not being met. Don't get dragged into the situation, instead try to listen to what the customer is saying.
'You said the patrol officer would be here at 1245, it's now 1310.'
Initial thought is,
'20 minutes isn't that much time to wait, what is their problem?'
It's important to note here that regardless how trivial you think the issue is, it is real for the customer otherwise they wouldn't bring it up. Go back and check that your SOP's are being followed.
'Systems say that the vehicle was in the vicinity at 1245'. 'Can you see a breakdown vehicle near you?' 'Yes, it's parked in a burger takeaway.'
This expectation was let down by a breakdown in the chain of SOPs. The driver decided to take a refreshment break during the period he was due to meet the client. All is not lost, the failure is identified, feedback can be given to the patrol officer and the expectation can be met.
Feeling valued as a customer is about more than getting a discount on a product or a courtesy phone call. It is about being made to feel like an important part of the process, a stakeholder. Effective feedback from a customer is vital in the evolution of the customer experience. Staff should create an easy and comfortable environment for customers to give their feedback, this alone is a great way to make a customer feel valued. If the customer can then witness a change and improvement and see their expectation being met, then they feel valued. It is the icing on the cake, complete control to the customer and free consultation for the client ensuring more customers are happy.
Nathan Gerrard is a founding member of ecopow Web Design Wiltshire. Customer Service is key to our business and managing expectations is the core to our customer relations. We invite you to visit our blog to see how we do this here: ecopow - Proposal Process
You can also find other information and free video tutorials at
Happy Learning!
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