The customer experience involves more than just whether or not an individual is happy with the product or service they pay for. There is also the process of finding, ordering, and receiving that product or service to consider.
So even if you have the greatest thing in the world available for purchase, customer expectations still need to be well managed and satisfied. Otherwise, your clientele could receive a great item but a disappointing experience. Here are three ways to keep your customers happy and exceed their expectations.
1. Provide Reliable Product Delivery
If you’re in the business of selling a product, chances are you need to arrange for shipping that product to customers. Even if you operate a storefront where people buy onsite, you still need to have reliable delivery from the manufacturer to your store.
Perhaps you have an efficient system in place for organizing, storing, and shipping products; if so, great! If you’ve been having issues in any of those areas or find yourself running short on space, you might consider outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider. A 3PL partner will accept, store, and organize your products. They will also process and ship customer orders on your behalf.
By outsourcing, you can cut down on staffing, storage, and overall headaches. Of course, you need to do your due diligence and ensure that you contract with a reputable company. After all, going from internal disorganization to outsourced disorganization isn’t going to improve the customer experience. But when you choose the right logistics partner, you can increase customer satisfaction markedly.
Outsourcing also gives you some support if your company is growing quickly or just ramping up the number of products it offers. To make the process easier, set up your outsourcing prior to shipping more than a couple hundred orders a month. That way, you won’t find yourself scrambling to find adequate warehouse square footage and personnel once orders increase.
2. Underpromise, Overdeliver
Few things annoy a customer more than when vendors fail to deliver on promises. It doesn’t matter whether there are legitimate reasons why an order got delayed or was otherwise subpar. If you guarantee something will happen on a certain timeline or be of a certain quality, you’d better follow through.
Typically, the best way to ensure promises are fulfilled is to build a bit of cushion into your client expectations. If it’s a very safe bet something will arrive at its destination in three days, promise five. That way, the client has accepted and agreed to a five-day timeline and will be impressed when the item arrives early. That allows you leeway to still meet expectations in the event of unforeseen delays.
Of course, you need to get your marketing and sales teams on the same page. For sales, it’s very tempting to present the best-case scenario as a given. Anything that makes your product or service sound more appealing will potentially yield more conversions and clients, right? While it might result in some short-term increases, your long-term branding can take a hit.
It’s advisable to periodically review marketing materials and sit in on sales pitches from time to time. That way, you can see to it that the sales team isn’t offering “soft promises.” Such soft promises might involve telling clients that they should plan for five-day delivery but will “probably see it in three.”
Technically, you’ve set an extended timeline, but expectations are a tricky thing. Clients could latch onto the scenario they like best and be disappointed when they experience the longer end of the spectrum. So make sure your sales and marketing teams know the limits of what they can and cannot mention regarding expectations.
- Focus on Customer Service Communication
No matter how well organized you are and how great your product or service, customer satisfaction issues will come up. Maybe a product arrived with a defect or was lost in delivery. Even if the problem was caused by an outsourced service, your company sold the product or service. Because of that, you will need to act accordingly to retain a positive brand image.
Typically, customers expect higher-quality responsiveness for more expensive products and services. A $5 shirt from a gas station is not going to prompt the same expectations as a $100 shirt ordered online. You need to make sure that your customer service quality is on par with or higher than the product or service provided.
If you handle customer service in-house, create firm expectations for response times and communicate those to both employees and customers. Going back to the “underpromise, overdeliver” concept, don’t promise response times that might possibly go unmet. If a customer is already feeling they were misled in their purchase, you don’t want to also fall short in fixing the problem.
Outsourcing customer service can be very tempting, as there are potential cost savings to be had. Before offloading this essential business component, though, research vendor candidates thoroughly. If your clientele is mainly in the United States, do individuals answering the phone need to be native English speakers? Do you want to only provide customer service via email or text and risk fallout from customers who prefer voice conversations? Not all customer service contractors offer the full range of options that you might want, so ask plenty of questions.
Keep Standards High
Once you do make your customer service decisions, don’t just assume everything is going well. Periodically, call or send a test message to all contracted service providers. If your experience falls short of what you want your customers to have, speak up. The goal is to catch any shortcomings before customers have bad experiences and get the word out. By waiting too long, you might find your company acquires a negative reputation that can take years to correct.