What do your customers expect?

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As I write this column, I am experiencing a significant amount of frustration with American Airlines.

My wife and I are coming back from a 4 day mini-vacation from San Francisco. On the way out, we flew through Dallas and had a 2 hour delay.  On the way back, we are flying back through Dallas and guess what – a 2 hour delay.

I recognize that we are getting ready to board a gigantic metal tube with a bazillion miles of cable and wire that somehow flies through the air.  But, I don’t care how complex the plan is or all of the logistics that goes into getting 200 people from all across the country into a plane headed for Indianapolis. The flight is supposed to leave at 1:20 – not 3:15.

If they told me the flight was supposed to leave at sometime between 1 and 4, I might not like it but at least my expectations would be properly set.

Guess who’s just as unreasonable, impatient and difficult as I am – your customers.

They don’t care that your email went down, the air conditioning broke or that your best employee is running 30 minutes behind.  All they care about is that you provide the product or service your promised. That’s it.

Here are a few simple strategies to help you ensure that you exceed your customers’ expectations every single time.  First, carefully set their expectations. Notice that I didn’t say “understand” their expectations. Your clients are unreasonable, and if you ask them what they expect they will tell you to finish the kitchen remodel in 3 days without getting a piece of dust anywhere in the house.

Second, create simple systems to ensure that everyone on your staff is absolutely certain how to exceed expectations.  A simple checklist is often more than adequate.

Finally, create a corporate culture that makes excuses completely unacceptable. You want every person to accept full responsibility for his actions.  Blaming someone else should never be heard in your business.  Never.

As with most things in life, the solution is simple.  All you need to do is execute.


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