It got me thinking:
To a large degree, the success of your business will ultimately come down to your customers expectations when dealing with you.
Do they think they are getting a great product and service from you, that is better than your competitors?
If something goes wrong do they expect that you will work hard to fix it, or that you just don't care?
Because if you want them to keep coming back, they must know you care - or it's only a matter of time before they will be motivated to go somewhere else.
The telecommunications industry in New Zealand is a very good example of where customerswith poor expectations have left companies in droves. Long wait times to talk with anyone, automated phone systems that seem to go in endless loops to nowhere, and call centres repswith poor English, have resulted in many customers leaving to go to other new players in the market.
Are the new players better? I'm not sure, but for some of these ex-customers it's not so much that the new company was necessarily better, but that they had run out of patience with their previous provider. Expectation was poor.
But technology is moving so fast it's almost impossible to keep up with, right?
With all the constant updates there are bound to be some unhappy customers, don't you think?
Back to my recent experience with Apple:
So, my tech-savvy 10 year old got an iPad. And he was really, really excited. He tracked it online through its 15-stage journey from Shenzhen, China. He even insisted we videoed him opening up the box when the courier arrived.
My wife (bless her) then took control of the set up and enabling the appropriate restrictions, but imagine the disappointment when everyone realised the long-awaited Apps wouldn't open!
My wife knows me well; she knows that technology that is not working properly drives me to tearmy hair out. Those of you who know me will appreciate that I don't have that much hair left which is even more reason to protect it. However I digress.
So from a safe distance I sat back and watched their dealings with Apple over the past week or so and I would have to say despite a faulty iPad (which is now going to be replaced) and many frustrating hours, they have achieved the remarkable feat of keeping exceptions high. Everyone is confident that the problems will be sorted and Apple will eventually get it right. No mean feat considering 10 year old's and sleep-deprived wives have limited patience.
So how have Apple been able to achieve this? From watching I have been able to glean some important clues:
1) They are easy to deal with:
You can contact them by phone, email, or live chat (online 24/7) and they speak English. They answer quickly and in almost all cases, give intelligent answers to some quite technical questions, or quickly refer you to higher technical support.
2) They are polite and attentive:
Here are some comments from the transcript of the help desk conversations. I don't know anything about the kind of training Apple give their people, but obviously they give them certain key phrases to use.
"Thanks for contacting AppleCare chat support. My name is Lindsay. Please give me a moment to look over your information" (Notice here Lindsay is letting his customer know that he is solely focused on them only)
"No worries at all .. it is my pleasure to help"
"I do understand it being your son's and I am sorry he is disappointed"
"Actually, I do have a senior adviser, Tim, on the line here. He will take over the chat and pick up where we are leaving off with regard to the diagnostic. He is up to date on the issue, so let me know when you are ready and I will get you over to him."
Language is always attentive, respectful and understanding.
3) They build up expectation:
"If we are unable to fix it, it would be the first issue I have ever seen that was unable to be fixed so you better believe we are going to find a solution!"
"Your request has been received by our awesome help desk staff..... we are working hard to respond as quickly as possible"
You will notice Apple are working hard right through the conversation to keep their customers happy and also build high expectations of a good result for the customer. We all know technology can be frustrating and things can go wrong. But Apple in this case have decided that this is an important area to get right - after all they could end up with a lifetime customer as this will not be the only tablet my son is likely to buy over his lifetime.
Am I saying that Apple is better than Android? No.
Am I saying Apple gets it right every time? No.
This is just one example of a time where one company got it right.
So check out what your customers are thinking and expecting.
After all - the customer that keeps coming back is the most profitable!!
1) Ask 10 customers how they find your company to deal with, and what problems or frustrations they have had and how these were handled.
2) Contact 10 customers you no longer deal with and find out what made them shift (ok this one requires guts).
3) Listen in on some conversations your staff are having with customers when things go wrong.
4) Every time something goes wrong, be proactive, take responsibility for the problem and start building a positive expectation for your customer.