The fifth “sin” of mediocre customer service is something all of us, as consumers, have experienced from time to time.
George Walther, author of Power Talking: 50 Ways to Say What you Mean and Get What you Want, provides a perfect illustration of this all too common customer service breakdown in a story he shares about trying to get window screens installed in his home.
Most of us, I presume, have had an “Ed’s Screen’s” experience that left us frustrated over poor follow-through, nebulous promise times, undisclosed charges, etc. Or perhaps you’ve been guilty of the same “sin,”in serving your customers due to excessive demands, time pressures, supplier problems, etc.
While there is no simple technique or word track that can compensate for personal accountability or process integrity, here are two simple habits that will help you do a better job at managing the expectations of your customers:
Develop the Habit of “Under-Promise and Over-Deliver.” The best at customer service understand that unforeseen time delays, additional costs, and other events beyond their control will inevitably happen, so they build in buffers that reduce the chances of letting customers down. It’s as simple as a delivery company promising that something will be dropped off by noon and then telling the driver to make sure that the object is delivered by ten in the morning, thereby exceeding the expectations of the customer. Furthermore, learning to under-promise and over-deliver not only improves the customer’ perceptions, it also reduces the stress so often associated with serving people.
Eliminate the word “should” from your customer service vocabulary. As George Walther pointed out, he really had no right to criticize Ed’s failure to fulfill his many promises. By using the word “should” instead of “will,” Ed never really promised anything. I know there’s a strong temptation to use this word, as it has become reflexive in our communication, but there’s tremendous power in being decisive. Learn to replace the phrase “I should” with “I will.”
When you think about it, managing people’s expectations goes well beyond customers; it includes coworkers, children, family members — anyone you engage with on any significant level. Learning to communicate like this will improve any relationship.
Have you ever been the unfortunate recipient of an “Ed’s Screens” experience? Are there any specific tools you use to better manage your customers’ expectations? I’d love to get your feedback.