Paul discusses the importance of customer expectations and how to exceed those benchmarks.
Expectations are the true benchmarks of satisfaction.
Do not make the mistake of under promising because you will inevitably live down to those expectations.
Set the expectation high—then deliver!
How can you unexpectedly serve your customers better?
When you make big promises, you extend your capacity to create value.
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How do I exceed customer expectations?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Well, on today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the true benchmark of customer satisfaction, and that is expectations. Think about this. What we expect is really our true benchmark of how satisfied we are as customers. So, on today’s show, we’re going to talk about the importance of expectations, but most importantly, I’m going to share with you a few ideas on how you can exceed your customer’s expectations, which is critical. Our aim is always to exceed whatever benchmark we set.
So before we get into that, just a reminder, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. Value-Added Selling is your content-rich message of hope on how to compete on value and not price. And critical within that idea of competing on value and not price, is giving customers more than they expect. In fact, our book is filled with ideas, insights, also strategies to help you go out there and compete more on value, but also how to exceed expectations. In fact, we have roughly five chapters dedicated to ways we can create more value, create more than what your customers expect. It’s critical. You can pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling wherever you get your books.
So let’s get back to expectations. And you know what really triggered this episode recently, it was on family vacation. It was an amazing 12-day trip. So me and my wife, our three daughters, we traveled over 2200 miles, spent more than 33 hours in the car, stayed at several different hotels, but there were two main ones that we stayed in. And that’s what really prompted this episode.
So here’s what happened. I’ve been a longtime fan of Hilton. I’m a Hilton Honors guy, right? So, you know how that is. You want to stay loyal to whoever you have your program with. For me, it is Hilton. So, every year, I get a few free stays for being a Hilton Diamond member. And I’m doing air quotes right now. I just want you to know that. So as a Hilton Diamond member, you get a few free stays. And I was delighted to learn that the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando is included in that. So I can get a few nights free stay there. Now, I thought to myself, “Oh, this would be great. We can treat the kids to just an awesome hotel.” All the luxury that goes along with the Waldorf Astoria. This is their premier brand. It’s like the Ritz Carlton if you’re talking about Marriott. It’s their premier brand hotel. And so, I thought, “Okay, let’s stay there.”
Now, it was great. I mean, as you would expect when you hear that, that name, Waldorf, you think, okay, yeah, it’s going to be premier. And it was first class. Everything was amazing. In fact, when we showed up, we requested an upgrade, and WE GOT AN UPGRADE. Oh boy. I’ve got to tell you, we had a two bedroom, king suite. It even had a balcony. It had one of the little refrigerators where you can grab what you want. Ended up paying the price on that. But it was first class. I mean, it was amazing. The only problem is that this happened on the front end of the trip and not the back end.
And so, you might be thinking, “Okay, why is that an issue?” Well, here’s the issue. The Waldorf Astoria now became the benchmark from which we graded every other hotel after. Which means, we were comparing our next place to where we were staying. And naturally, when you’re staying at the best, one of the highest award-winning hotels in the area, naturally, where you stay next is going to fall short. And so that’s why we’re talking about expectations today. When we think about where we stayed the first couple nights, and then when we stayed the several nights after, yes, the hotel changed. But even the hotel we stayed at afterwards, on its own, it’s a great hotel, great amenities, but it wasn’t quite the Waldorf. Everything we experienced: oh, the spacious living environment just isn’t as big as it was at the Waldorf, or the beds just aren’t as comfortable as they were at the Waldorf. We were comparing everything to the Waldorf because that has set the expectation; that set the benchmark in our mind.
Now, I guess, in hindsight, maybe what I should have done is stayed at the lesser hotel first, and then on the back end stay at the Waldorf. Hey, sometimes I’m in vacation mode, I’m not thinking clearly. So anyway, that’s why we’re going to talk about expectations. Expectations are the true benchmarks of satisfaction. And what I want to do today is I want to show you how you can become the Waldorf. How you can become that one solution, that one company, that one salesperson from which every other one is graded. So, do you want to be the Waldorf, or do you want to be that second-tier hotel? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Now, expectations are so important, and since they’re important and we know this as salespeople. Salespeople will often make a common mistake and that is they will under promise and over deliver: under promise and over deliver. Now this is dangerous for several reasons—two key reasons though.
Number one, how can you sell under promising? When you’re selling to a customer, I could only imagine what your value proposition might sound like: “Mr. Buyer, I know you have choices, but I assure you that we are the most average of all. We’re so mediocre you can’t help but be satisfied. I guarantee that our solution won’t leave you dissatisfied. Our solution, you know what? If anything else, it’s tolerable.” That’s what it could sound like. And that’s classic under promising. Who can sell that? If you can sell that, I would assure you, you can write a book and it sure it’d be a bestseller. We have to make big promises as salespeople. That’s part of what we do. And we’ll talk about the importance of that in a moment.
But, the other reason it is so dangerous to under promise is because we rise or fall to the expectations we place upon ourself. You know, there’s a guy Rosenthal—it’s actually called the Rosenthal effect—and he conducted several experiments, and I won’t go through them, but basically, he was able to link performance to expectations. And what he found is that when people have a higher expectation of performance, they do tend to perform better. It almost becomes that self-fulfilling prophecy. So, here’s the challenge. If you’re constantly under promising, that means eventually you will live down to those expectations. And when you live down to those expectations repeatedly, you fail. You end up failing. You fail your customers. You fail your company. You end up creating something that is purely average or below. So again, we want to make big promises. Low expectations will limit your capacity to create value. So we want to set the bar high. And now we’re going to talk about ways to do that.
So, first and foremost, when you’re trying to exceed expectations, you have to clearly understand what those expectations are. I would encourage you to ask your customers, “What do you expect from me, and what do you expect from our company throughout this process? What do you expect in the way of outcomes?” I remember, our company was looking at a new CRM system and the salesperson who I interacted with, he asked a great question from the very beginning. He said, “Paul, I’m sure you’re looking at different types of CRMs. You’re probably looking at what you currently are using, but let’s start at the beginning. What are you trying to achieve here? What do you expect from us and our solution in the way of outcomes?” And I basically explained what I’m looking for, and he tailored his presentation to show me not only how I can achieve those objectives and how that will meet those expectations, but he showed me a way to go past them: to achieve greater objectives, to achieve things that maybe I didn’t think was possible before. But he began by clearly understanding those expectations. So for all you salespeople listening, step number one: get a crystal-clear understanding of what your customers expect.
Number two: you have to reinforce your value. You know what? Customers are largely unaware of all the little things that have to go right in order for that world-class experience to take place. So highlight the hidden ways you bring value throughout the experience. Educate and inform the buyer of the unique ways that you add value throughout the customer experience. This invokes that self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember, customers tend to find what they have been educated to look for.
I’m thinking of a restaurant I recently went to, and during the initial meet-and-greet with the waiter, the waiter came over and brought this plate of meat. Now the plate of meat, it was raw, it was wrapped and shrink wrapped, but it was plated beautifully. It looked good; it looked appetizing. And he went through each cut of meat. He explained the nuances of how the restaurant sourced all of this meat, how they prepare it, how they age it, how they store it—all of these little things. And he said, “We do all of that so that you can have the best experience in our restaurant.” And I ordered one of the steaks, and I must say that it tasted amazing. Now, part of the reason I believe it tasted amazing is because he explained the value that went into it. Expectation high and then delivered on that expectation.
Number three—this is a big one: highlight your value-added strengths. You know, what you’re trying to do as a salesperson is you want to establish your value-added strengths—those value-added extras that are unique to your company. Because that criteria becomes the benchmark criteria from which every other option is graded. Remember, whatever is focal in our presentation is deemed valuable and important by the customer. So as buyers compare different alternatives, they’re going to look at your solution, they’re going to look at your value-added strengths, and they’re going to use those as the benchmark, as the criteria from which they grade everyone else.
One of my clients I was working with, they had two unique value-added strengths in their industry that were widely known. And that is their expertise, and the amount of technical support that they have. In fact, when you look at the certifications that their sales team had—certified specialists in this area, in that area—they highlight that. They make the customer aware of that. Not only that, they have more technical support personnel than all of their competition combined. Let that sink in for a moment. They have more support than any of their competitors combined. They highlighted those key strengths. Those became the benchmark from which all the other competitors were graded, and they end up coming out the winner. They stand out. They’re able to separate themselves based on that value. So again, highlight your value-added strengths.
And then, finally, ask yourself this question: “How can I unexpectedly serve my customer better? How can I unexpectedly add more value?” One of the great things about surprise is that we don’t have an expectation. Think of all those times you have a great customer experience and oftentimes that is linked to unexpected value.
This happened just this past weekend. My family and I were just walking to a restaurant, Honeybees. It’s in Kirkwood, Missouri—our hometown. And I’ve got to tell you, it was a great experience. Now, great food, yes, but what really made it a wonderful experience was the unexpected humor that the cashier used when greeting us. He used some great puns. In fact, we ordered some of their signature honey-glazed biscuits. We said, “Okay, we’re going to try two of these honey-glazed biscuits.” And the guy behind the counter looked at me and he said, “You know what? That sounds aglazing.” I looked at him and I got to tell you as a connoisseur of dad jokes and puns, I laughed. I loved it. It was great. And he continued on. And part of that value was the fact that it was unexpected, but it was appreciated.
All right, everyone. Well, that is the show for today. Again, just a reminder, when you’re looking to create more value, number one—you have to have a clear understanding of what your customers expect. Number two—you have to reinforce that value, especially all the hidden ways that you bring value. Educate and inform that buyer. Number three—you’ve got to highlight your value-added strengths. Make those the criteria used to judge every other competitor. And finally, ask that question: “How can I unexpectedly serve my customers better?” Remember that every time you make big promises, you end up extending your capacity to create value, not just for that customer, but for every customer after.
Make it a big day.