With customer expectations so high these days, it can be overwhelming just trying to meet them, so how exactly do you go about exceeding them?
A colleague of mine recently said that while customer support is, of course, “about supporting customers, you can make it so much more than that!”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, it’s all about being prepared to go above and beyond...”
The discussion that followed highlighted a problem we suspect plagues many customer-facing businesses, including yours. How do you keep your customers happy and do more for them?
We’ve all heard the phrase “the customer is always right” but I think it’s fair to say that’s not always true when it comes to field services. That’s because so many jobs require the expertise and attention to detail that only a well-trained engineer can provide.
While a job that’s been completed to perfection might sound like the best way to wow a customer, exceeding customer expectations has more to do with the smaller details that surround a job.
In order to go the extra mile, you need to focus on the individual touchpoints that really impact customer satisfaction. That means if you want to ensure you’re exceeding customer expectations, then you need to consider the following:
- Learn to address your customers’ needs and expectations
- Remember: patience is a virtue. Listen to your customers!
- Set expectations by creating boundaries
- Set up these 3 tools to make going above and beyond easier
1. Learn to address your customers’ needs and expectations
To learn where you might need to implement changes to exceed customers expectations, you need to first discover what their basic needs are. With that knowledge, you’ll be in a much better position to ensure you’re providing a service that meets them.
From there, you can begin to exceed them.
Think of it like this. Customers expect to:
- work with a company who communicates well
- get a fair deal at a reasonable price
- interact with businesses who they feel they can trust
- know a business has their best interests at heart
Expectations are high these days, and that’s because great customer service has become so prevalent in all sorts of ways. This means it’s distinctly more noticeable when great service is lacking in any industry.
After all, when interacting with organisations like Amazon (1-click ordering), Google (1-click-login), Uber (vehicle tracking to literally watch your food arrive at your doorstep), they make it look so easy.
It’s because big businesses have invested so heavily in making these things seem simple for their customers, it’s trickled down so that these features become something smaller businesses need to implement so that they can compete in a crowded space and even put themselves ahead.
In 2021, convenience is very much the name of the game and it’s increasingly important to focus on ensuring that every interaction a customer has is as smooth as possible. Besides, even the slightest bit of friction can put them off from using your services, especially when competitors are a Google search away.
The CX Lead reports that: “74% of consumers will ditch a brand if they find the purchasing process to be too complicated,” so it’s important to consider how you can stop them from going packing in other ways, too!
To build on that: “we all know it’s much easier and more costly to lose a customer than to gain one” (HSO Innovation), but by paying attention to the finer details and addressing the basic needs of your customers, you can encourage them to stay.
You’ll make it easier on yourself and your team to go above and beyond for them!
At Commusoft, we refer to these touchpoints as "customer journeys" and we’ve seen that businesses who take care of these journeys (be it through things like payment portals, booking confirmations, automatic invoices, or improved contact options) find success. Just check out the graphic below for some notable stats:
As “excellent” customer service becomes its own sort of “new normal”, the problem arises in how you go about exceeding these new expectations.
The technology you use is going to be your best friend when it comes to monitoring customer satisfaction, but you need to also consider the human element behind it, too. In the end, we’re all people! While we’ll avoid the deeper philosophical debate, no matter what, it’s always important to consider the more human approach your customers crave.
This will provide you with the best map towards exceeding their expectations.
That’s where a listening ear is more powerful than you might expect...
2. Remember: patience is a virtue. Listen to your customers!
In terms of practical advice, listening and being patient may sound a little vague, but how else will you find out what customers want unless they tell you directly?
Point 3 will go more in-depth to discuss the digital tools you can use, but it’s important to highlight the importance of listening to the voice of your customers.
First, then, let’s see what going above and beyond in terms of building great relationships with your customers looks like.
It can be hard to be patient, especially when a customer may be losing theirs. However, for anyone working in a client facing role, whether it’s in person, on the phone, or even by text, a calm and patient approach can pay dividends.
If a customer complains, listen.
If a customer is making a request, listen.
If a customer needs advice, listen.
It’s so valuable to take the time to hear what someone’s really saying and, more often than not, you’ll get to the root of the problem faster by listening than by making assumptions.
The value listening adds may seem difficult to measure and it may even sound a little cheesy, but there’s undoubtedly an emotional element to customer service that people will respond to, if only you’re prepared to give them the time.
Listening to their feedback, or providing a means for them to send it in other ways (i.e. through digital forms or email surveys) means you’ll also have an opportunity to take on genuine suggestions, to learn, grow, and improve your business.
Even better, you’re making your customers feel validated and in many cases, it can be a useful outlet for people who may simply want to feel as though they're being heard.
After all, if a customer is paying for their service, they are entitled to the satisfaction of a job well done. If they feel ignored or, worse, patronised, that’s when things can take a turn for the worse in the shape of 1-star reviews, or even legal actions.
In conversation with my colleagues in client services and support at Commusoft—as well as our Head of Operations, Nisha, when talking about training—we've discussed how a friendly attitude can go a really long way to making an impact.
Time after time, you’ll see this paid back to you when a customer leaves a positive public review, books another job with your services, or recommends you to someone else (especially if you give them a little nudge to do so).
Granted, this isn’t always an easy thing to do when your team is swamped with work during the busy season, but that’s where specific tools (as you’ll see below) can make a significant impact, too.
By ensuring your admin staff and your engineers are listening to customers, you’re only going to improve communication internally, too. That’s because it strengthens how they share notes and details about specific jobs and customers. With knowledge being shared amongst your team, you can demonstrate to customers it’s not only one person who’s able to help them (we’ve all had that person who asks to speak to one specific colleague, and only that colleague) but your entire team is capable of going above and beyond.
After all, if an engineer is on a job and the customer highlights a problem, say accessing the boiler was difficult, your entire team can note this so that next time, any engineer can go prepared to deal with the situation.
The customer will also be spared from repeating themselves, as well as feel remembered and appreciative of your attention to detail, thus cementing trust.
A cohesive team, who listens, shares knowledge, and works together will help your business overcome all sorts of challenges, while a satisfied customer base will be a reliable source of income no matter the circumstances.
3. Set up these 3 tools to make going above and beyond easier
To give yourself the best chance of not only meeting, but going on to exceed customer expectations, you need to consider at least a few more features, like the three below, as part of your solution.
Any great great job management software (like Commusoft - *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*) will provide easy-to-use, intelligent, detailed tools that can ensure you’re giving your customers all they need and more.
With them in place, you'll be able to reassure them, build trust, and show you’re prepared to go the extra mile to deliver a great service.
a. Self-service portals
It may seem counterintuitive to say that self-service helps you deliver a great service, but if a customer can solve a problem themselves, you’d be surprised how happy it can make them.
By implementing self-service tools, you’re empowering customers to be decisive and take action quickly, all whilst keeping it under control so you can rest easy knowing a process (like booking a job or taking payment) is done quickly and easily, leaving customers more satisfied, too.
After all, giving payment details over the phone can feel a little uncomfortable, and delays in getting to speak to a representative (especially with in-person interactions being more limited these days) are barriers-to-entry that can cause friction and put people off.
With the right tools, self-service portals eliminate this problem so that a customer can request a booking, make a payment, or even leave a review with ease. It’s fast, efficient, and saves your own team time from doing even more admin: what’s not to like?
b. Instant reminders
Another great benefit of self-service portals that are built into your job management system means that you can also benefit from automated communication with instant or scheduled notifications. It makes communication a breeze.
Did the customer just make a booking request?
Then both you and they can rest easy as automated notifications prompt staff to take action and give customers peace of mind that their request has been acknowledged and it’s also been booked into your engineer’s diary.
The same sort of messages also benefit you when it comes to prompting customers to make a payment or to send a helpful service reminder that gives peace of mind that the booking details they’ve requested are correct.
Automated communications provide excellent quality of life touches that are incredibly useful. They ensure everyone’s on the same page and reduce the likelihood of issues arising from miscommunication, be it no-access jobs, or having to constantly reschedule appointments.
c. Vehicle tracking
As briefly touched upon above, an Uber-style tracking system is an excellent way of highlighting to the customer where/who exactly your engineers are and when they’ll arrive.
A name, a photo, and a little description bring a very human element to what might have so far been an automated process, and it’s reassuring to be able to make a connection that gives the customer confidence in whomever they may be greeting, even before they’ve said “hello”!
Take a look at how Commusoft can assist with real-time vehicle tracking, here.
4. Create boundaries to set expectations.
While we don’t doubt you want to help your customers as often as possible, it shouldn’t come as a detriment to your business, either. After all, everyone’s had customers who might take the mick, and it can be the case that if you give them an inch, even once, they’ll try to take a mile.
In these situations, what you should be focusing on is empowering customers so that they’re not becoming solely dependent on you.
For instance, while your engineers definitely need to be the ones to install a boiler, you shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of a visit every single time it needs a minor reset.
It’s moments like these which present an opportunity to go above and beyond to educate your customers and give them insight into how to easily maintain the products you’ve installed.
This means that, for domestic customers as an example, if a fuse blows, they’ll know it could be a simple flick of a switch that resets the fuse and lets them reignite their boiler, rather than panic and let emotions run hot, instead of their radiators.
Small touches where you provide additional advice, on top of the standard service, can instil confidence. It’s also a great way to subtly establish boundaries, because no matter how generous you are, you can’t expect to attend to every single problem that every customer has: not if you’re a growing business tackling hundreds of jobs a week!
As another example, let’s say a customer is having trouble paying their invoice. It’s not on you to contact their bank or set up the payment for them (though you might walk them through some simple steps, too). But, rather than say: “No worries, pay us when you can!” it can be more practical to establish a plan. After all, if you've followed our advice above, listened to your customer, and made use of a payment portal, you might find that it’s the money itself that’s a temporary problem.
How to Create an Invoice that Customers Will Pay
In this case, you have an opportunity to do something generous: you can break down a lump sum into multiple installments. This gives the customer better control of their finances whilst ensuring they still get whatever essential work they need doing, and they’ll be super happy that your business could accommodate them so easily!
Points like this may be a one-time thing, or something you’re prepared to do more regularly (subscription and payment plans are increasingly common these days, just check out our post with Vendigo on that matter, in particular).
Ultimately, they're worth considering, as there are number of ways you can go above and beyond to help exceed expectations when it really matters most!
What to takeaway when exceeding customer expectations
For more on how you can go about exceeding customer expectations, be sure to explore customer journeys by looking at our comprehensive page: The Complete Guide to Crafting the Perfect Customer Journeys! From going paperless, to portals, and plenty more, there’s a lot to learn!
We’d also encourage you to check out the highlights of using Commusoft for you customer journey needs: you can discover what we’re all about, discover the tangible benefits that customer journeys can bring, and see it all laid out clearly in our demo video, too!
As always, we’d love to hear from you, so if you have any queries, you can connect to the team via CommuBot below, or contact us here, as well!