Friday, October 1, 2010

Setting Expectations

I live in Belgium. A country with many positives - very international, great food, fabulous chocolate, so small that you can get elsewhere in a matter of very few hours (Paris 1 hour, 2 hours to London or Amsterdam). But also home of absolutely the worst customer service I have ever experienced.

More than once have I stood in line at the till, and whilst "serving" me and the people in front and behind me the sales person is on her mobile phone..... Or there is a queue of 5-7 people who wants to pay - only one person at the till whilst another 5 staff are hoovering or chatting on the floor.
Just recently my son got his first mobile phone, he had a certain budget and after having researched a couple of weeks he had his eye set on a specific phone sold by Belgacom - the local telecompany. We visited 8 stores where the phone was on display - but when we wanted to buy it we were told "Ooh we do not have this anymore". Asking if it was possible to order it for we were told "No" no alternative was offered only "try another Belgacom shop". Of course I got slightly annoyed and asked why "do you have the phone on display with a price and everything when you cannot sell it ? Instead of taking it down?" the answer here was "Complain to Belgacom" - which incidentally I thought I was doing. (But obviously there is not much of feeling part of the company if you work on the shop floor).
Visiting store number 9 the clerk says (as the rest of them) "Sorry we do not have that model in store" but wait for it..."If you do not mind waiting a week to ten days I can order it home for you". We almost kissed the guy! He did not only order it home for us - but also called me two hours later to say that he had found the phone in their stockroom - so whenever it suited us we could come and pick it up.
My son was thrilled and he got his phone and on the way home in the car he talked about what a great service this clerk had just given. I whole hearted agreed.

But wait ....hang on a minute.
Everywhere else this kind of service would have been offered in every one of the eight stores we visited (except we would then only have had to visit one), and that would have been the norm. So here we were thrilled about an "outstanding" service which would have been the bare minimum in most other places.

I guess it proves if you set expectations very low - it will be very easy to exceed the expectations and the customer would be happy and come back for more, right? Wrong.
In the case of Belgium I guess we have to get used to it and we are... we wait longer in the cafe to order a cup of coffee, we expect to have a lot of hassle if we want to exchange - or God forbid, our money back for a sweater. But we also go everywhere else to do the shopping when we have the chance (I personally prefer the UK- so go there frequently with a couple of friends for a Saturday shopping - and make a day out of it).

So this will only work if your customers do not have an alternative....

You need to set the expectations at a perfect level. So the customer wants to buy from you, because you meet his needs. But also so it is relatively easy for you to honor these expectations - you cannot "run after", "go all out"  for every single customer - most should be routine and "bread and butter".
Then you have the possibility to “pull all stops” for that particular case which is very tricky and I bet you and your team would love to do that. Because this is really what we live for – these exceptional cases where we call in favors from  everybody… but to do that for every single customer that would just be too exhausting.

No comments: