One of the secrets to being the kind of business that people naturally talk about is to consistently exceed your customer’s expectations. I know that sounds like a simple idea, but I’d like to suggest you think about more as a strategy and even build in processes to make certain it happens.
But, the first order of business is to understand that in business and in life, it's extremely difficult to exceed an expectation you have not participated in setting. This is where so many people fall down. You can give and give and add more and more value and do all kinds of things that you didn’t promise, but if in the mind of the customer these were seen as thing you ought to do in your line of work, then they are of no value.
That’s why hanging your core marketing message on sayings like “we provide great service”, or “we have exceptional quality” or, here’s my personal favorite, “we’re trustworthy” are of little or no worth at all – they are expectations and come with the fact that you’re in business.
You’ve got to reach out and create expectations that are meaningful and then blow them away.
So, how do you exceed expectations?
Focus on making the experience of doing business with you remarkable. Yes, you must have good products and services, but to make a connection that’s worth talking about, you need much more.
For the most part the stuff we sell is boring, so your job is to make doing business with your firm not boring, or at least, less boring than the rest.
Set the proper expectation by coming up some way of doing business in your industry that nobody else does and make that your core marketing message – “we don’t do marketing consulting, we install a marketing system – and this is how we do it.”
Create every process of doing your work, delivering your product, interacting with your community of customer, suppliers and partners as an intentional marketing process. Deliver your invoice in a box candy with a hand written thank you note.
Surprise your customers with random acts of niceness. Detail their car when they come to your business for a meeting. Send flowers. Donate to their favorite charity. Refer business to them. Include some free stuff you know they might use.
Treat your employees like customers. People really underestimate this idea as a marketing tool. Your employees are the primary conduit of the experience factor so are they channeling your crappy attitude or do they feel great about what’s going on? Give them the freedom to create, the flexibility to make a change, the tools to not feel frustrated and most importantly the place at the marketing table they deserve. Once a month hold a contest and let every employee create a cool new customer service process of surprise and watch what transpires!
Create a signature response to problems. Problems happen, that’s a fact, but you can choose to respond to a customer challenges, problems, let downs, screw-ups and mistakes in one of two ways. You can ignore and create the kind of friction that drags your trust into the ground or you can respond in such an over the top, out of control, nobody does that way that can turn problems into gold mines. If you want to exceed expectation, choose the latter!
Are you staring to see how this exceed expectations thing could be strategic? In fact, maybe there should be a box on the org chart for a Chief Expectations Officer.
Image credit – Jessica Diamond: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepishly/