I’ve been thinking about customer expectations recently. I make it one of our business goals to have great customer service. We may make mistakes every now and then, but we try to deal with them effectively and efficiently. In my mind, the way you deal with problems is one of the best tests of service.
However, when the customer starts to get accustomed to great service, are they let down when they only get good service? If you promote exceptional service, but don’t deliver, does that harm you more than it helps you? Examples:
I buy quite a lot from Ebuyer – it’s my primary shop for electronics. They are generally very competitively priced, offer a free delivery option and have a good range of products.
I tweeted a few weeks ago when I bought something from them, chose the 5 day free delivery option, and my order arrived the next working day. I was hoping for 5 day delivery, as I wasn’t going to be in the office for 3-4 days so I wanted it to arrive after I got there. I was slightly disappointed with this, even though they exceeded my expectation, but I thought “that’s great service”.
A couple of days ago, I bought something else, choose the 5 day free delivery option with the expectation that I would probably receive it within 1-2 days. It’s scheduled to arrive 5 working days after I bought it. I feel slightly let down by this, I expected it to be quicker. It’s within their time-frame, but I expected them to be exceptional. Overall, I understand, but I still feel a little let down.
I’ve heard good things about hosting company Rackspace. Their website makes no illusions to the fact they offer ‘fanatical support’. It’s one of their main selling points.
Their website doesn’t make it easy to get prices – they encourage you to interact with their sales team. A chat window popped up asking me to talk to them, so I did – I asked them for a price.
40+ minutes later, after a chat and phone call with 3 separate people, I still don’t have a full price and was not impressed by their service (you can read the full details on page 2).
In my opinion, promoting ‘fanatical support’ gives the customer high expectations of service. In my case, those expectations were not even close to being met. However, their strong promotion of ‘fanatical support’ and customer testimonials makes me think perhaps it was just their sales team and that once you’re on board, the service is much better. I don’t know that for sure, and I’m not particularly inclined to find out!
Bottom line… after talking to them today my opinion of them has dropped significantly, a much larger fall than if they didn’t tell me they think they are so great.
At the end of the day, great service is about delivering more than the customer expects. If their expectations are too high, you’re never going to live up to them. I would suggest that managing your promotion of high expectation should be carefully considered – promising more than you can deliver is going to have a hugely negative effect, but if you don’t advertise how good you are… how will anyone find out?
[Page 2 has an overview of my interaction with Rackspace]
Your point on eBuyer is interesting. The E-Myth recommends consistency above all else. Life is random, chaotic, every changing. If we are able to have predictable, solid, reliable, absolutely *consistent* interactions with businesses, we begin to place great value in that predictability. eBuyer short-changed themselves by delivering better service on one occasion that they can’t deliver every time. Probably a strategic mistake.
Amazon are outstanding for this. They over deliver but in a very small way, and consistently. They’re one of the best big business customer services outfits I’ve experienced.
RackSpace is interesting. Their dedicated server offering comes under the “if you need to ask the price” heading. It’s crazy money, and there’s no really good reason for that. But their cloud services are clearly priced, easy to understand, competitive, and have a good reputation as far as I’m aware.
Oh, and to the point of setting high customer expectations, yes, I think it’s a good idea. However, I think it’s more important to be consistent. So set an expectation only if you can deliver on it 99.9% of the time. When you can’t deliver, go overboard to keep the customer happy. Only over deliver in cases where you can do the same again, every time. I think consistency trumps outstanding service intermittently.
Interesting points. I hadn’t thought about consistency but I think that consistency is indeed important. Be consistently great. Perhaps that should be our new motto!
RE RackSpace – yes, it is quite a bit more than other people’s similar offering… perhaps if you’ve got wads of cash (like a VC funded startup, or established enterprise size business moving into new markets) then it’s probably not a bad option.
PS Interesting that you write eBuyer – I used to write that and chose to write Ebuyer as that’s how it’s written on their site!
Haha, I didn’t even notice!
As in… I literally wrote that everywhere – all my saved invoices are eBuyer… etc etc. I think I got it from eBay – who are actually eBay.