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I often find that the secret to success in business, and perhaps in life, is to exceed expectations. But, the one area where businesses let customers down most in the expectation arena is delivery.
Now, understand that as far as I’m concerned delivery can mean shipping a physical product, delivering a result, or filing an RFP. No matter what a prospect or customer is expecting in any form, how and when they receive it is an opportunity for your business to stand out or, not.
Set them first
One of the things to keep in mind about expectations is you have the ability to set them so failing to exceed them is kind of silly. I’m going to suggest you do things that set proper expectations, fully anticipating exceeding them. Over the years I learned the hard way that once you set expectations, even if they were beyond the customer’s request, but don’t meet them, you’ve failed. On the other hand, if you set expectations, even if they were less than what the customer requested, but them beat them, you win.
When you buy shoes from Zappos the standard shipping is advertised as 3-5 days, yet I know they routinely ship some percentage of orders overnight, no matter what the customer requests. I’ve see customers crow on Twitter about ordering online in the afternoon and getting their new shoes the next morning – expectations blown away.
Deliver on problems
Problems happen, that’s a fact, but you can choose to respond to a customer challenges, problems, let downs, screw-ups and mistakes in one of two ways. You can ignore and create the kind of friction that drags your trust into the ground or you can respond in such an over the top, out of control, nobody does that way that can turn problems into gold mines. If you want to exceed expectation, choose the latter!
Delivery process as marketing
Create every process of doing your work, delivering your product, interacting with your community of customers, suppliers and partners as an intentional marketing process. Deliver your invoice in a box candy with a handwritten thank you note. Online businesses are finding that free shipping has become an expectation and incentive for purchasing from one business over another. Consider creating a way for your best customers to earn free shipping or priority delivery of services and features.
Surprise your customers with random acts of niceness. Detail their car when they come to your business for a meeting. Send flowers. Donate to their favorite charity. Refer business to them. Include some free stuff you know they might use.
We get so caught up the features and benefits of products and services that we often overlook some of the greatest ways to differentiate in ways that customers appreciate most.