Your customers have more expectations than ever before. In the past, you competed primarily with the brands in your industry. Nowadays, you’re competing with all companies across industries. In other words, your customers are comparing your customer experience with all of the experiences they’ve had in the past. That’s why it’s never been more important to know how to exceed customer expectations.
There are a lot of important factors that affect your customers’ expectations. Not only are they considering their previous experiences with similar brands, but they’re also basing their own expectations on your reputation and past reviews. Additionally, your marketing content and communication strategy creates a brand image for your audience.
Your customers’ expectations need to be at the foundation of all of your decisions. With 74% of customers at least somewhat likely to buy based on the experience alone, this has never mattered more. Better yet, customers are willing to pay a premium for great experiences that exceed their expectations. If you hope to transform passive customers into dedicated brand superfans, you need to know how to exceed customer expectations with every interaction.
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, this guide is for you. We’ll share 7 easy steps to exceed customer expectations that you can streamline for your own brand. Without a solid foundation, you can’t possibly expect your customers to stay loyal. With 32% of customers going to a competitor after just one bad experience, this is something you can’t afford to ignore.
Streamline Communication Channels
First, you need a strategy for streamlining communication channels. If you wish to exceed customer expectations, this starts with solid, reliable communication. Your customers expect the same level of service across all communication channels. This means your messaging, tone, and support should be outstanding whether a customer is reaching out on social media, through a help ticket, or via email.
Nowadays, it’s normal for brands to be active across multiple channels. While this can be overwhelming, focus on the places where your audience already spends time. You don’t have to spread yourself too thin. Additionally, use insights to make sure you’re spending time on the most important communication channels. From there, ensure your support team has a similar process for managing feedback, concerns, and so on.
The makeup brand Glossier ensures all of their communications are helpful and efficient. While customers can reach out for support on their website, by email, or by phone, they can also tag them on social media. By using a social media management tool, Glossier stays on top of these messages and tags so they can respond promptly with clear, helpful support.
Communicate Problems In Advance
Next, don’t wait for customers to reach out to you when something goes wrong. No matter how carefully you manage your business, things happen. What matters most of all is how you handle these problems when they do occur. Letting customers know ASAP that you’re aware of a problem is always better than staying silent. Better yet, let them know what you’re actively doing to fix it.
While it might seem better to stay quiet and hope customers don’t notice, you don’t want to risk a negative experience. Your customers expect greater transparency than ever before. In fact, 94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to companies that offer complete transparency. It’s always important to avoid playing the blame game and to stay transparent when things go wrong (and when they go right).
In other words, make sure customers know what’s happening every step of the way. For example, if there’s a shipping delay, share this update right away. By taking the initiative, you show customers that you take transparency seriously. This translates to real loyalty and trust.
For instance, the home goods retailer Crate & Barrel takes quick action to update customers when delays happen. They know how frustrating it can be to wait for something to arrive by mail, so they always keep customers in the know. During the COVID19 pandemic, many items were delayed longer than usual. Instead of waiting for customers to reach out to support, they sent clear updates and information on how to stay on top of shipping details.
Show Your Attention To Detail
Similarly, pay close attention to detail in all interactions. From communication preferences, purchase preferences, personal details, and more, always consider your customer as an individual. People don’t want to be treated as numbers on a sales page. They want to be seen as real humans.
The truth is in the statistics. A reported 80% of people say they’d be more inclined to purchase from a brand with tailored experiences. Whether you allow customers to specify their communication preferences or you provide custom recommendations, these small details matter. They show customers that you recognize they have different needs, and you know how to meet these needs. Using a Customer Relationship Management tool is one of the best ways to keep track of these details.
One brand that nails personalization is Spotify. This music streaming service understands that listeners have their own unique musical tastes. With daily recommended mixes, yearly wrap-ups, and personalized recommendations, Spotify understands listening preferences better than any competitor.
Their unique AI technology makes it possible for Spotify to learn from listeners and make great recommendations. The more users listen, the more Spotify knows. Because these personalized playlists change daily, there’s always a reason for customers to log back in.
Show Your Appreciation
Next, show your customers you appreciate them. It’s easy to focus all of your energy on new customers, but your existing customers deserve just as much love. With 65% of a company’s business coming from existing customers, it pays to give attention to this group of your audience. However, don’t assume your customers feel appreciated because you offer a great product or service. Companies need to take active steps to show they care. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
It’s not enough to say you care. You need to show customers how much they matter to you through initiatives just for them. When you take the time to share gifts, rewards, discounts, or special offers, you connect with customers in new ways. With expectations higher than ever, you can’t afford to ignore your most engaged customers. Everyone loves to feel valued, and this builds trust with a brand. Loyalty isn’t a given. It’s something that’s earned.
The food delivery app DoorDash created a paid loyalty program to offer special perks for frequent orderers. In exchange for a small monthly fee, DoorDash customers can become a member of DashPass. With this membership, they get free delivery for a variety of local restaurants. When customers continue to use the app, they get even more savings. This kind of initiative shows superfans just how much they’re valued.
Go The Extra Mile Every Time
When your goal is to exceed customer expectations, it’s not enough to do the minimum. While “good” used to be “good enough,” it no longer cuts it in today’s world. Now, you need to go the extra mile every time. How can you go the extra mile? This means you don’t just solve the problem. You also apologize, and you take steps to ensure this issue doesn’t happen again.
Let’s say a customer received the wrong order. This is undoubtedly frustrating, but you might be tempted to just ask them to exchange it for the right thing. Instead, take things further. Start by apologizing for sending the wrong thing in the first place, regardless of who’s at fault. From there, send a replacement and report the issue so it doesn’t happen again. Lastly, you can turn the situation around by offering the customer a discount or special offer on their order for the trouble.
While this doesn’t mean you have to bend over backward in every situation, consider ways you can exceed expectations. Your customers expect their problems to be solved quickly, but how can you make sure they feel heard and valued in the process? Taking the time to follow up on your apologies with real action goes a long way.
The underwear subscription service MeUndies knows customers might be confused at the idea of a monthly underwear subscription. Instead of waiting for customers to come to them with questions, they proactively reach out. Their cheeky messaging makes sure customers feel their questions are important. Better yet, it makes it as easy as possible to get these questions answered fast.
Know When To Break The Rules
Next, know when it’s time to break the rules. While rules exist for a reason, that doesn’t mean they need to be strictly followed 100% of the time. As the saying goes, there’s a time and a place for everything. There are sometimes circumstances that might make rules seem unreasonable. It’s important to read the situation to know when it’s time to break the rules.
For instance, if a customer missed a subscription payment because they had to cover an unexpected funeral cost, this would be the perfect opportunity to offer grace. This comes down to practicing humility and humanity in your business. When companies focus on their humanity and treating others with compassion first, this stands out.
The pet retailer Chewy handles this beautifully. When customers forget to turn off the subscription for an upcoming food order after a pet passes, they don’t follow their usual return rules. Instead of asking customers to return bulky pet food bags for a refund, they comp the cost and ask the customer to donate the food to a local animal shelter. By showing empathy and understanding in moments of tragedy, they create a real bond with their animal-loving customers. This is how Chewy earned loyal customers for life.
Always Collect & Implement Feedback
Last but not least, always collect and implement feedback to make your brand better. Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s easy to assume you know what your customers are thinking, but you won’t know the truth until you take the first step: ask them yourself. When you collect feedback, you learn valuable insights. Better yet, you know your strengths and weaknesses so you can streamline the customer experience to exceed expectations every time.
How can you collect feedback? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Surveys, promoter scores, and social media are all great places to access your customers’ thoughts. From following up after completed sales to checking in with existing customers, don’t leave any customers in the dark. However, asking for feedback is only the first step. The most important step is to act on this feedback, building it into real initiatives.
The vitamin subscription service Care/of builds collecting feedback into their strategy. They follow up with existing, past, and prospective customers to determine how likely users will recommend Care/of to a friend or colleague. By asking for a simple net promoter score in email messages, they quickly learn whether they’re currently hitting the mark with users. When customers click on a response, they’re prompted to share more details, making sure their opinion is heard.
Understand and Exceed Customer Expectations
Ultimately, you need to consistently push further to not only reach but also exceed customer expectations. Customer expectations have never been higher, but that doesn’t mean your strategy has to be complicated. It’s all about making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged in your content (also known as the WAVE System).
Outstanding customer service doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, an understanding of your customers, and dedication to their needs. The good news is that you can expect a big payoff if you’re willing to take action on these 7 steps above. By setting a strong foundation, you show customers they’re more than just a number on a sales page. They’re a partner in your business.