Customer satisfaction is essential for the survival of your small business. If your customers aren’t happy, your small business will fail. To please your customers, you have to carefully managing what your customers expect from your business. Your clients won’t be happy no matter nicely you cut their grass if they thought you were going to trim the hedges too. Then you can kiss those begrudged clients goodbye, along with any referrals and testimonials they might have provided. Actively manage your customers’ expectations from start to finish by taking the following steps:
1. Learn your clients’ priorities
To manage your customers’ expectations well, you need to understand and prioritize your customers’ wants and needs. Ask lots of questions and make sure you document what the client expects from you. Get to know your client and make a plan for how you will prioritize and fulfill their various expectations. Clearly lay out what you can and cannot do and why. Before you start work, tell your customers exactly what you plan to do and put it in writing so that they can refer to it later.
2. Communicate well
Expectations can only be met if they are communicated, so be available for your clients and clearly communicate with them. If you will not be available to take calls or return emails during some period of time, leave an out-of-office message on your voicemail and email that says when you will be back. You can also set customer expectations by making a set schedule when customers can expect to hear from you: e.g. call weekly on Tuesday morning to check in. You should communicate the hours when customers can expect you to answer or return phone calls and emails. That way they know when the best time is to reach you and won’t think you are trying to avoid them by not answering. Communicating well is the most important aspect of customer-expectation management.
3. Build trust through consistency
All customers expect consistency. Build customer trust by being consistent in every aspect of your business. Any changes must be agreed upon ahead of time. Strive to be consistent and customers will be managing their own expectations by always knowing what to expect: the same great service/product they received last time. Ask for feedback to find out where the customers see inconsistency in your work. Then work to fix these problem areas in your business. As you consistently please the customer, they will trust your business more and more, which is the key to building lasting business relationships.
4. Under-promise, over-deliver
The most straight-forward way to increase customer satisfaction is to exceed your business’ promises in ways that are meaningful to your customers. Maybe you finish a project a day early. Perhaps you save them money by finding a quality used part in place of an expensive new one. Find out what is important to your customer and find a way to meet that customer “want” in a way that is reasonable for your company.
5. Follow through
Find out as early as possible if you are meeting your customers’ expectations. Ask your customers for feedback and work out any problems quickly. In our lawn-care example, the business could do a walk-through with the customer after the first service. This way, they’d get the customer’s reaction first-hand and could take notes on what the customer was happy with and what needed improvement. No matter what type of small business you run, make sure you find out quickly what your customer thinks about your services: where you excel and where your services fall short.
You can meet and exceed your customers’ expectations when you make managing these expectations a priority. When you listen and communicate clearly from beginning to end of each job, you are much more likely to win your clients’ approval. Make a habit of learning your clients’ priorities and exceeding their expectations to make your business thrive. Managing customer expectations well is the key to your business’ success.
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