Why do customers or even you become loyal to a company?
Why are there cult followings like you see with Harley-Davidson and Apple?
I recently decided to visit one of my favorite Japanese-Korean fusion restaurants. I saw it was now under new management. I instantly felt it may no longer be my favorite.
I walked in and as usual they greeted me with their usual overly enthusiastic “so happy to see me” greeting. The staff were all new hires. The food tasted the same and the quality of service was the same, but it is still not the same people I grew to love.
But then, they surprised me. At the end of my meal they brought me a Tiramisu cake (that I hadn’t ordered) and said it was a customer appreciation gift.
In an age where customer expectations are constantly growing and people are constantly comparing alternatives, earning customer loyalty is essential.
Simply saying “thank you” in this case meant this restaurant instantly reaffirmed my loyalty.
So how do you meet these expectations and earn the competitive advantage the comes from customer loyalty?
And better yet, how do you meet and exceed these expectations?
How to Use Price to Surpass Expectations
Delivering the right value at the right price is critical. If you bought a Honda car and in 5 years it fell apart you wouldn’t be as disappointed as if you’d bought a new BMW and the same thing happened.
Is what you are delivering really worth the price? Are you over inflating the price?
Recently I found a shampoo that cost $19 a bottle and it worked great. I told all my friends about it and that the brand they had to get was God of Hair.
Then one day one of my super-saver friends gave me bottles of this drug store shampoo that worked just as well. So now I spend $3 on my shampoo instead of $19.
So how do you determine your price in a way that exceeds expectations? Here are 7 factors you should take into consideration when determining your price:
- Your Costs: Obviously, you need to add up all the costs that you incur in the delivery of your product or service, to make sure you’re turning a profit.
- Market: How much demand there for your product or service?
- Industry Standards: Analyze your competitors and get a clue as to what they are charging
- Skill or Quality Level: How high quality is your product, or the skill level required to deliver your service? What you don’t want to do is disappoint a customer by delivering something that breaks or simply isn’t a match as far as what they paid for it.
- Business Strategy: Determine how you will pitch your product. What image are you setting? Obviously KIA and BMW are the same in product (automobile) but are they branded the same? Obviously you wouldn’t pay the same price for them, but understand why?
- What you are delivering: Is the value of the result you are delivering worth the price overall? You may think what you do is awesome, but your customer may see it as …. Meh. For this reason you might want to consider offering multiple pricing packages, each level with a different level of value.
Use empathy (or empathetic language) to relate to your customers
It is important to understand the customer from their perspective.
Here is how:
- Listen to the customer when they are speaking. Don’t just hear but actively listen by summarizing what they said back to you before giving your response.
- Be apologetic when you’re clearly in the wrong
- Express sincerity in your desire to solve their problem “ No problem sir, we will get this straightened out.”
- Manners still matter! Being polite gets you far in this world and with customer expectations.
- Ask the customer for their input. His suggestion on how he may want to resolve a dilemma.
Customers are actually surprised when companies make it easy for their issues to get solved.
Most customers expect there to friction when trying to resolve a problem and are in for a shock when things were just too easy and this will cause them to be loyal customers and even spread the word.
Predict the customers needs
Predicting the customer’s needs is imperative to exceeding their expectations. And it’s simpler than you think.
For example, if you are a chef who provides a catering service and a potential client asks to meet with you at your kitchen, you can assume she will want to understand what your food tastes like so she knows what to order.
So predicting her needs in this case would mean having some tasting samples prepared in advance, without her even having to ask you for it.
In this way, predicting someone’s needs means to take action to pre-empt and address common fear and objection. But it can also mean enhancing a customer’s overall experience (as I showed in the example story at the beginning of this article).
Use social media to get your authentic voice out there
People want to know what others are saying about your company, which is why people it’s such an important tool for staying in-tune with existing customers as well as attracting new ones.
People are more than likely to go to your social media page before they even go to your website.
Potential customers often turn to review sites, along with Facebook and Twitter, to see if anyone is talking about your business (both good and bad). And even if there’s something bad, if you show you’re sincerely working to resolve the issue, that matters.
In this way, social media works to build trust and set customer expectations, often before a purchase is even made. It answer the common fear, “Ok, if something goes wrong, how will this company help me work through it?”
Say Happy Birthday
Imagine a customer’s face when they receive a birthday card from you.
Sure it seems simple and not a big deal but you have done two things here:
- Made them feel special and that they matter
- Reminded them about your company
- Associated your brand in a positive way with that important day of the year
Simply remembering people on their birthdays can be a significant differentiation point between you and your competitors. It also creates a lot of goodwill so that the next time your customer is asked for a referral for your type of business from a friend–your brand’s name will come up.
Being constructive vs. being reactive
Lets face it, you will receive complaints from time to time, especially as you grow. Being able to handle those complaints in a constructive manner rather than a reactive manner is what counts.
Don’t make it the customer’s job to continuously follow up on the status of the complaints.
Call them and let them know the status. This way they’ll know they have not been forgotten, and that their complaint is being handled in a serious way.
If you catch a problem before they are even aware of it, have a solution ready to go, and the call them before they have a chance to find out about the problem on their own. This builds trust.
Actions speak louder than words
Every month you should gather information from your customers such as questions, complaints and suggestions. Figure out how you can improve your customer service or website design to meet those identified needs.
For example if you have tons of emails from customers asking what time does your business close then perhaps put the business hours on your website or create an automated phone service that gives them.
Being cool about it
So we know some strategies for meeting and exceeding customer expectations–but how do we do it without making it seem we are trying to bribe our customers or brown nose? After all our goal instead is to treat our customers like the VIP Rock-stars they are and earn their loyalty.
There are some really simple solutions for this “how to be cool” about it question:
- Be real. In other words be genuine. Meet customer expectations because you know it’s the right thing to do, and it’s a good thing! Tell them “happy birthday” because you really want them to know you remembered, and that you sincerely wish them well.
- Love what you do. I am sure you heard of the Confucius quote : “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Enjoying your work will make treating your customers like gold a natural part of your work routine.
- Smile! Psychology studies show that to smile when you are feeling down and immediately makes you feel happier. And when you’re happy and you look happy, that’s going to help brighten your customer’s day.
- Kill them with humor. When in doubt make them laugh. I was told a recent story about an account manager who was working with some potential clients around the holidays. He wanted to give them a gift because, well its the holidays but he didn’t want them to perceive the kind gesture as a bribe. So he bought them a gigantic candy bar with a holiday card. The gesture is now seen as thoughtful, funny (remember that smile step) and it does not look like a bribe or an attempt to suck-up.
It is difficult for people to find a company that has great customer service nowadays. If you stick with these principles, however, you will surpass customer expectations:
- Be a good listener
- Predict customer needs
- Make customers feel important and appreciated
- Know how and when to apologize
- Emphasize with the customer
- Get regular feedback (because you care)
- Know their names, and use them when speaking to them
- Be constructive when problems arise
- Give extra unexpected gifts
- Be on social media and be authentic
- And of course, be cool about it
What ways do you exceed customer expectations and what was the outcome? Do you have any stories about treating customers like rock-stars while you remained cool?