Mediocrity is everywhere.
Even companies that have the highest hopes and best intentions don’t often make it past the point of offering bland, run-of-the-mill customer service — whether their customers are other businesses or the public at large.
Many companies are quite comfortable in this sea of conformity. They deliver what they promise and build up a certain customer base over time. But here’s the truth: to stand out from the crowd and truly thrive, you must exceed expectations.
In this article, we’ll explore the transformative power of going beyond the call of duty. Learn how to break free from the mundane and stand out from the crowd by embracing the principles of exceptional customer service. We’ll cover:
Exceeding expectations means that you do more than what somebody else expects you to do.
Meeting expectations is not the same as exceeding them. When customers have expectations, such as a certain quality of a product or service, they expect the provider to meet those expectations.
Companies that meet expectations are likely to maintain a good standing in the marketplace. But those that consistently exceed expectations are the ones that stand out above the rest.
Whether your customers are private consumers or other businesses, leaving your customers with exceeded expectations is a powerful tool for customer retention, brand loyalty, and dynamic word-of-mouth marketing.
Regularly exceeding expectations may sound like a tall order, but it isn’t impossible. There are solid principles at work that companies can integrate into their core values and business practices.
Here’s a list of 12 essential principles of exceeding expectations, along with examples of how different companies have exceeded expectations by putting these principles into practice.
Going the extra mile starts with going beyond basic requirements to offer unexpected extras.
If you’ve ever bought a new car and then received a box of cookies in the mail from the dealer, for instance, you know how that extra touch of appreciation can make you smile and think more highly of the dealership.
The same holds true for a remote or hybrid environment. An employee at a far-away location who goes out of their way to solve a customer’s problem, even if it means they’re staying up late in their timezone, can turn a one-time customer into a regular.
Psychologically, being at the receiving end of better-than-average service tends to generate a pleasant sense of surprise and appreciation. When customers feel valued instead of experiencing their patronage being taken for granted, this often results in greater loyalty to the company or store.
Luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton is known for its customer service. Its hospitality staff is specially trained in anticipating and fulfilling guests’ desires, whatever they might be.
But more than that, each employee is authorized to spend as much as $2,000 per guest to solve any problem that comes up — without needing preapproval from a manager. They’ll do just about anything to keep their customers happy!
Building trust and rapport with customers is an important factor in customer retention. One survey found that 94% of customers consider a company’s treatment of customers as the top factor that influences its decision to buy from that company.
To connect authentically, companies do well to invite open feedback and actively listen to their customers, whether through surveys or by emailing or calling random customers to solicit their comments. These feedback loops help businesses better tailor their offerings to customer needs.
Footwear and apparel company Zappos, which consistently scores high in customer satisfaction, solicits customer feedback continuously.
Their website includes a “Your Voice Matters” section with an invitation to give feedback (“We’d love to learn more about your shopping experience on Zappos.com and how we can improve”). This is followed by a survey button that leads to meaningful questions. The honest feedback guides the company in continuously improving its customer service.
Taking the previous point one step further, personalizing your customer interactions is a key strategy for making customers feel valued. It involves tailoring experiences to individual preferences and customizing communications with customers.
For instance, greeting your most valued customers by name can leave a lasting impression, whether it’s practiced by the cashier at the local grocery store or the finance director at a multinational your company is doing business with.
In an online environment, this principle translates into delivering personalized messages and recommendations that make customers feel like they’re more than an anonymous fish in the pond.
Netflix practices the principle of personalizing customer interactions by analyzing user data to provide highly customized content recommendations.
From personalized homepage selections to tailored movie and TV show suggestions, the company makes sure that each user’s viewing experience is unique and enjoyable.
Speedy production or service is an important business metric — but rushing to meet quotas or deadlines shouldn’t take precedence over the quality of those products or services.
“Quality over speed” is a powerful mechanism for customer retention. After all, a cup of coffee thrust into your hand in a cafe in under a minute won’t impress you if the coffee tastes like it’s been sitting in the pot for hours.
Likewise, you’re far less likely to return to that coffee shop than if your latte had been made to perfection — even if it took five minutes to do so.
Known for its meticulous attention to detail and its unwavering commitment to quality, Apple is a shining example of leaving no stone unturned in its product development process.
Apple’s obsession with quality ranges from its choice of materials to its user interface. This results in products that consistently set industry benchmarks for excellence.
Data technology may seem far removed from day-to-day interactions with customers, but it can be a powerful ally in making an exceptional customer experience impact. With data analytics, you gain insights into customer preferences and behaviors, which allows you to engage in personalized interactions at scale.
AI and machine learning can take personalization to the next level by making accurate product recommendations based on past interactions. These technologies can help to delight customers through tailored experiences.
Spotify is highly committed to personalization via its curated playlists and music discovery algorithms.
These things not only introduce users to new music but also adapt recommendations based on users’ listening history. The end result for the user is a dynamic and individualized music experience.
The value customers find in having real people available to connect via phone or live chat can’t be overestimated.
According to one survey, “54% of customers say that their biggest frustration with chatbots is the number of questions they must answer before being transferred to a human agent.”
Companies can meet customer expectations by establishing effective communication systems. However, they can exceed expectations by reaching out immediately to customers who have left voice messages or inquiries, addressing them by name, and showing they care about their concerns and feedback through prompt service.
American Express provides 24/7 customer support through both phone and chat, so assistance is readily accessible at any time it’s needed.
The company playfully underscores its commitment to live service on its website: “When we say we’re here for you, we mean it. Our ‘office hours’ never end, so you can get in touch with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Yes, you can speak with an actual human.)”
Mistakes in business are inevitable, but how you respond to them can define your company’s reputation.
For hybrid or remote employees who don’t interact face-to-face with customers, it may be tempting to ignore mistakes and leave people hanging. Sadly, customers are used to being treated this way.
That’s why remote and hybrid workers who are trained in taking customer experiences seriously can have a major impact on the company’s reputation for exceptional customer service.
Acknowledging errors, taking responsibility, and offering genuine apologies are key, as they can transform negative customer experiences into positive ones — especially when combined with real, tangible solutions and adequate compensation.
Southwest excels at handling mistakes gracefully. For instance, they are quick to acknowledge mistakes or disruptions in travel plans, whether that’s a delayed flight, mishandled baggage, or something else entirely. They apologize sincerely and empathetically to affected passengers.
When serious issues occur, Southwest proactively offers solutions such as rebooking on the next available flight, providing compensation or vouchers, and ensuring that passengers’ needs are met during any extended waits.
Empowering employees to take ownership of customer interactions can pay off big time when it comes to exceeding expectations.
Well-trained team members can create a culture of service, trust, and autonomy within an organization. Encouraging employees to exercise autonomy and creativity can lead to creative solutions and exceptional service.
This principle is not restricted to in-person customer interactions. With the right tools in place, hybrid and remote teams can collaborate smoothly to provide top-tier customer service.
For example, the hybrid workplace management software OfficeRnD Hybrid has a rich set of collaborative scheduling features that enable employees to schedule in-person interactions for team work and collaboration.
The following anecdote shows how far Disney employees will go to please their visitors:
12-year-old Brooklyn lost her talking teddy bear, Toby, at Disney World. The bear, which she had owned since she was just three years old, was a gift from her father — a soldier who had since lost his life — so she was devastated when it disappeared.
After much searching, cast members at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort found the teddy bear and mailed it back to Brooklyn. Imagine the girl’s surprise when the box also contained a photo album of Toby at a number of special Disney places, including with Winnie the Pooh!
Staying one step ahead of your customers’ needs and worries and resolving potential problems before they escalate are hallmarks of exceptional service. Proactive customer support involves anticipating issues and offering solutions before customers even ask for them.
Amazon demonstrates excellent proactive customer support with its shipping notifications. By keeping customers informed about their order statuses every step of the way, Amazon reduces the need for inquiries about deliveries.
A generous return policy is a testament to a company’s commitment to customer satisfaction. It allows returns for various reasons, including defects, dissatisfaction, or simply a change of mind.
By minimizing hurdles in the return process, companies can turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Wholesale club Costco is a prime example of a company that offers a generous return policy. They allow customers to return products with minimal hassle and usually without the need for explanation.
This approach contributes significantly to Costco’s reputation for building exceptional customer loyalty.
Exceeding customer expectations often begins with setting realistic expectations and being transparent about what customers can expect from the company.
After that, going beyond what’s promised and delivering more than customers anticipate creates the “wow” factor. Consistency in this practice is key to building brand loyalty.
Tesla has gained a reputation for exceeding customer expectations by consistently delivering innovative electric vehicles (EVs) that go beyond industry standards.
For instance, Tesla vehicles often provide more mileage per charge than initially advertised. A Tesla Model 3 may have an estimated range of 250 miles, but real-world driving experiences often show that it can achieve quite a bit more.
Tesla’s commitment to under-promising and over-delivering has helped the company build a community of passionate supporters who appreciate the company’s continuous efforts to exceed expectations in the EV industry.
Consistency is the cornerstone of a strong brand experience. When companies maintain uniformity across all touchpoints, regardless of their location or platform, customers always know what to expect. This builds familiarity and trust.
Starbucks is a great example of an unwavering commitment to consistent branding. Whether you’re in-store, using their mobile app, or participating in their loyalty program, Starbucks maintains a uniform brand experience. This consistency helps customers feel at home with the brand, no matter how they engage with it.
For any business, exceeding customer expectations takes work — but it’s not a random process. Rather, with a systematic approach, this goal is very achievable.
First, determine where your company may need to shore up its customer service. Then, select the best approaches from our list of 12 principles to implement as key strategies for growth and success.
If your company is building a hybrid work environment and needs some guidance and support, consider OfficeRnD. Our easy-to-use hybrid office management solution, OfficeRnD Hybrid, will help you consistently meet and exceed the expectations of your employees and therefore of your customers.
Thanks to OfficeRnD Hybrid, you can:
“Exceeding expectations” refers to surpassing the set standards or goals, often delivering more than what is required or anticipated.
Practical strategies for exceeding customer expectations include focusing on quality, personalization, proactive support, employee empowerment, and leveraging technology. It’s all about consistently delivering exceptional value and service.
Small businesses can exceed expectations by prioritizing exceptional customer service, nurturing customer relationships, and looking for cost-effective ways to personalize customer experiences. Employee training in genuine care can also make a big difference.
Metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) can help businesses gauge the impact of their efforts on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and their overall business performance.
Interested to see how we at OfficeRnD aim to impress our customers? Check out our yearly recap blog post and learn how we strive to be the best in our industry.
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