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Managing Customer Expectations

By Lisa Woods (1201 words)
Posted in Customer Service on July 29, 2012

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Do you know what the difference is between a happy customer and a complacent one?  The happy customer is loyal and the complacent customer is not.  How do your customers feel about doing business with you?  What does your company do to ensure happy customers? 


Managing Customer Expectations is not only about satisfying the customer.  It is also about providing clarity within your own organization, and between your organization and the customer.  Clarity sets internal and external expectations.  Once you have clarity, you can focus on efficiency...which leads to happy customers and increased profits.  So why do so many companies fail at managing customer expectations?  Maybe it is because they spend too much time measuring customer satisfaction and not enough time working together.


Here is an example of two different approaches a company can take:


  1. Fix problems to the customer's expectations via corrective actions.

  2. Proactively manage expectations to ensure problems do not arise.


If you were the customer, which approach would make you happy, loyal and engaged?  Which approach does your company take today?

Managing customer expectations is not only about solving or anticipating problems, but by focusing on this area first you can begin the process: create internal systems, develop a customer centric environment, improve work flows, happier customers and increased profits.


Start your efforts by improving customer service.  Your customer service team is on the front line and often left to be the buffer between the company and the customer..   Here is the problem: customers do not want to speak with a buffer; they want to speak with a company they can be partners with.  The customer service department should act as an entry point to this partnership while other departments back up their efforts.  All areas of the company must be involved in managing customer expectations.


Here are five actions you can take to ensure your company proactively manages customer expectations by working together.



ONE: Create a silent partnership.

Have managers/supervisors sit in on customer service calls for 20-30 minutes per week.  This will give everyone an idea of customer requirements, and inspire accountability on their part when dealing with future issues.  Managers are the ones who will make changes in their own departments to ensure customer service/sales are getting the support they need in the time frame they need it.  By sitting in on calls just to listen, they can act immediately within their teams to make things happen, as well as witness first hand the support, or lack of it, that their teams currently give to the customer service/sales team.


TWO: Involve other departments in the customer service function.

Encourage conference calls with customers to include other members of your organization whenever there is a problem you are working on with a customer.  Make sure your customer service representative handling each account leads these calls.  Don’t pass the call along, instead, show your customer that you are a team and the person they talk with regularly is not a buffer, but the one pulling everything together for them.


THREE: Share customer feedback.

Document customer experiences and share them throughout your company.  State the issue, the solution, response time and the individuals involved in order to give credit.  Many times customer issues are perceived as problems, but it does not have to be that way.  If you are focused on great service, you can use customer issues as examples to encourage and motivate your team.  This is different than documenting corrective actions and customer complaints.  It is all about creative solutions, accountability and teamwork.


FOUR: Train you organization to take advantage of standardized improvements.

Promote best practice by learning from past experiences and making solutions standard practice.  Department managers outside of customer service can use best practices to train their employees on how to handle situations in the future so that management does not have to intervene.


FIVE: Keep the dialog going.

Proactively initiate conference calls with key customers and other managers in your company to ask how you are doing to meet their expectations.  Continue to set the bar higher in your organization and in your industry.  Have six-month or quarterly reviews with key accounts asking if they are happy with your service.  This is a great way to establish your company as a leader.  Customers will become more open to telling you ways to improve…that is much better than deciphering why you lost a customer after the fact.


Managing Customer Expectations goes beyond customer service…it is a company culture that needs to be developed and managed.  Get everyone involved and become a customer centric organization.

  • Be proactive with key accounts.

  • Get all areas of the business to listen to the customer.

  • Let your customer service/sales team speak for your company.

  • Ensure the company supports the customer service/sales team.

  • Periodically review customer requests and determine what makes sense to standardize in your routine.

  • Communicating what your organization can't do is just as important as communicating what it can do.


I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!




Written by Lisa WoodsPresident & CEO ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, dynamic business leader & author with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she provides Management Tools, Do-It-Yourself Training, and Business Assessments for small to mid size companies, Lisa utilizes her experience with integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and strategic revitalization to help other companies succeed.  Closing the gap between strategy and hierarchy through the use of effective communication skills, Lisa's techniques successfully develop employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors that collectively exceed objectives.


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Comments (5)

DANIEL QUIAMBAO posted on: July 30, 2012

In purchasing, to differentiate the two. Well, it would be great if every client were the perfect client: their expectations were clear and never changed. But sixty-eight percent of customers who leave your company for one of your competitors do so because they believe you are indifferent to their needs and opinions. It is a common organizational pitfall to become complacent about customers' needs and wants. If we want to avoid complacency in our company, we need to commit generous amounts of time to continuous planning efforts.

Michael Soon Lee posted on: July 30, 2012

Don't forget that expectations vary around the world. For example, Asians in the US tend to give lower customer satisfaction scores even though their survey comments are just as positive as others because many believe that a "10" would embarrass the person or company being surveyed so instead just give a "6" or "7". I have successfully worked with many companies to set appropriate expectations as the relationship begins so surveys reflect their true feelings.

Dan Woods posted on: July 30, 2012

Thank you for your comments. Agreed on both accounts... There must be a structured and focused organizational effort to create the customer-centric focus you are looking for. And Michael, couldn't agree more. We shouldn't forget cultural/social norms as we try and create our customer service program. Again, thanks for the feedback and have a great week.

Abe WalkingBear Sanchez posted on: July 30, 2012

Hi Lisa,

Good article, thank you.

The purpose of a long term profitable business is be to meet or exceed expectations...customers and employees...at a profit.
This requires good communications and ongoing and never ending constant improvement.

A business manager not focused on constant improvement becomes an administrator at best and a bureaucrat at worst.

Theresa Nguyen J.D. LL.M. posted on: February 21, 2017

Good article! Essentially, managing customer expectations has a lot to do with managing employee expectations as well.

Listening to the customer or client is very important and I like how you mentioned that you need all aspects and personnel in your business to comply with that requirement.

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