Whether you’re just starting your business journey, or you’ve been in business for years, you’ll know how important keeping your customers happy is. If the worst should happen, being able to calmly communicate any delays or troubleshoot common issues is key to managing customer expectations and handling unreasonable requests.
Stay one step ahead
You know your business better than anyone else, which means you also know the familiar issues that your customers come up against.
How can you mitigate these and solve their problem before they approach you? Could you give additional troubleshooting instructions with a new product, or set up an FAQ page on your website so that your customers can find answers easily?
From transparency about delays to keeping everyone in the loop about how work is progressing, keeping an open channel with your customers is the secret to managing their expectations. If something unexpected happened that will cause delays, customers who you have apologised to are likely to be far more accepting than those who were surprised and disappointed as a result.
Don’t forget about replies too. How long can someone expect to hear back from you? Be realistic: can you reply on the same day, or do you need to give a timeframe of a few working days? That way, someone who is waiting for a reply to an email doesn’t feel like they’re being ignored if you don’t reply straight away.
How can people reach you? Do you have a backup if the phone line goes down? Keep your social media and website updated with your contact information and opening times in a clear place, especially if you’re closed for a holiday.
Perfect your customer service
Many small businesses pride themselves on delivering great customer service, but if you’re expanding, hiring or going through a busy period, it can be tough to juggle it all. For example, do you need to take on temporary staff to ensure a seamless experience in busy periods?
Making customer service training a priority for new joiners will ensure you whole team is aligned on your business’ values. Your business plan should outline your values and mission as a business, which feeds back into the experience that customers can expect from you. This way, no matter who your customer is speaking to, they will have a seamless experience. If your business makes any significant changes, revisiting your business plan can help you to plan how you’ll stay up to speed.
If you stay on top of your online reviews, your customers will know what to expect from you. Timely responses and helpful replies can win over the most negative review if you know how to handle negative reviews.
Get it in black and white
If you’re entering into a contract you should include realistic expectations within this so that all parties are aware of what will be delivered. For example:
- Timescales and deadlines for approvals and completion. It’s best, where possible, to state that “time is not of the essence” of the contract, otherwise deadlines can become time-critical and failing to meet them can put you in fundamental breach of contract.
- Specifics of what you will be delivering.
- If your client is expected to send you anything to fulfil the work, for example brand assets to complete the work if you’re a design agency.
This way, if any issues arise, you can refer to the contract. Then, if you’re receiving requests that are outside of the scope of the work you quoted, you can manage expectations by explaining what was agreed in the contract and that additional work may incur further costs.
Failing to manage expectations can sometimes lead to a contractual dispute. If the matter escalates to a contractual dispute, it’s always best to seek legal advice before taking any action.