“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”
When your customers call or walk into your establishment, they already have a perceived expectation of what your customer experience should be. Your advertising, website and salespeople, which serve a promise to your customers, have already shaped that expectation. Deliver on that promise and your customers come to trust you. Fall short and you have broken that promise and trust. For example, a restaurant menu is a promise to your customers that what is printed on the menu is what you have to offer. If you have to tell a customer that he has an old menu, the new menus haven’t been delivered by the printer and the dry-aged steak is not on the new menu, then to the customer, you failed. He doesn’t care about the printer. All he cares about is his steak. And you failed to deliver it. And his perception is all there is.
Customers don’t care that it’s your first day on the job. They don’t care that you are understaffed because someone called in sick. Customers don’t care that the computers were down when they called. They only care that they are your customers. They are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for an experience that they feel is more valuable to them than their money. And when they come to you, they never have an expectation that they will be dissatisfied.
So how do you live up to your customers’ expectations? At the very least the customer experience you deliver should be with no surprises and no excuses. To your customers, any experience less than their expectation is perceived as a dissatisfying surprise. And any reason you offer to explain why you could not deliver is perceived as an excuse. And their perception is all there is.
So do everything you can to make sure there are no negative surprises. Get rid of any potential dissatisfiers. For example, remove forbidden phrases such as “I’ll be back in a second,” Can you hold for just a minute?” and “I’ll be right with you.” Such phrases only frustrate a customer when more than 60 seconds go by. Review all the customer touchpoints and take any negative issue and make it a neutral. Minimize wait times. Clean dirty restrooms. Create “no hassle” return or exchange policies. Then, as Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development puts it, “Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.” That’s it. It’s that simple. Just “do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”
And if the customer is unpleasantly surprised because you could not deliver, then offer no excuses. Simply apologize. Even if the customer asks for a reason, just say, “It doesn’t matter. We failed. It should never have happened and I apologize.” Remove the surprise and offer some form of atonement.
To drive customer loyalty, deliver to each customer an experience that has “No Surprises. No Excuses.”