Take 5 seconds and think about the brands that you love. For me, there are a few that come to mind, Southwest Airlines, Apple, In-N-Out, BMW (time’s up).
Then think about why you love these brands. Maybe they have awesome products or customer service. I would also venture a guess that these companies have another characteristic, and that is they have probably never disappointed you. And, there’s probably a reason they haven’t disappointed you because they are really good at setting your expectations.
Why Customer Expectations Matter
Customer expectations matter for one simple reason. If you don’t set them, customers are likely to be disappointed. Disappointment leads to frustration, anger and allows your customers to think of alternative companies that can do that same thing for them. Disappointed customers can also hop onto their social media profiles or blogs, and vent those feelings with a few hundred characters.
AT&T iPhone 4 Pre-Orders: A Classic Example of Missed Expectations and How It Could Have Been Avoided
If you haven’t heard, Apple’s iPhone 4 comes out on Thursday and last week’s AT&T pre-order process was a freaking debacle of epic proportions. Why? AT&T simply failed to set their customer’s expectations.
Now you would think that with Apple estimating 10 million or so iPhone 4 orders by the end of the year and AT&T allowing any customer who has the ability to upgrade this year to pre-order the phone, that AT&T would have done 1 of 2 things. Optimized their website and servers to handle a boatload of traffic or set their customers’ expectations appropriately.
A simple email to all iPhone customers leading up to the pre-order date telling us that the process may take a while and you might not get the phone when promised would have been nice. Hell, an official statement from AT&T that they were working their hardest to resolve issues would have been nice, but that never came. Instead, AT&T disappointed tons of customers, proved they don’t really care what type of experience their customers are having and inspired thousands news articles, posts, Tweets and status updates about the issues from popular news websites and blogs. High five AT&T (note sarcasm here).
5 Rules to Follow to Set Customer Expectations
- Timeliness Matters – If you know your store is closing for remodeling or menu is changing, telling your customers 24 hours before doesn’t cut it. Give customers time to learn about the upcoming change.
- Notify Your Customers How They Want to be Notified – If your customers have opted in to receive email or text messages from you, then let them know through those channels.
- Why, why, why – Tell your customers why something is happening. There is nothing more infuriating to me then when I don’t understand why something is happening. If my flight is departing two hours late, telling me that is departing two hours late without telling me why makes me want to pull my hair out.
- Don’t lie – Need I say more. If you tell your customers that you are closing for remodeling, but they learn it’s due to another reason the likelihood of them trusting you with their business in the future is slim to none.
- Learn How to Say Sorry & Move On – Of course, no matter how well you try to mitigate customer expectations, there will always be that one person who continues to kick up a big fuss. Apologize, sympathize and move on. It won’t matter what you say to these types of people.
In an age where organizations can communicate directly to their customers via social media, text messages or email, and blogs/new sites can get stories up in a matter of seconds, companies have no excuses not to try and manage customer expectations. The more organizations do, the more customers will continue to trust them and, hopefully, embrace them even when crap happens. You’ll never see me post something negative about Southwest or BMW because even when negative things happen, they’ve proved to me that they care, or at least they try to care.
Do you think companies should be trying to set expectations better? If so, how? If not, why? What other rules should companies follow to ensure they set expect expectations appropriately?