A company's ability to provide excellent business-to-business customer support can only go as far as its ability to manage - and ultimately exceed - the expectations of its clients. The worst thing a business can do is tell a customer his or her problem will be resolved one way and then offer a contradictory solution or timeline instead.
As business owners, we all know there is a baseline expectation for high-quality customer service in today's marketplace. For example, the Institute of Customer Service found 60 percent of consumers favor a balance of price and service and are unwilling to accept poor customer service in exchange for lower prices. However, the best way to exceed the norm and maintain happy clients in the long term is to manage their expectations from start to finish. Companies can set themselves up for success by employing these five powerful strategies for managing customer service expectations:
"Companies can maintain happy clients long-term by managing their expectations from start to finish."
1. Openly discuss solutions
Businesses that have highly knowledgeable customer support teams should be well-versed in the solutions to every potential problem and be able to speak to those possibilities quickly. One important way businesses can manage customer service expectations is by openly discussing possible solutions to a problem with the client. By listing off possible resolutions, support teams empower their clients to understand the complexity of a particular problem and engage directly with its solution. Additionally, by painting a clear picture of possible results, service teams ensure customers don't have unrealistic expectations of how simple or difficult the resolution will be.
2. Provide clear timelines
Glitches, errors, and bugs in a software program can be irritating and costly to customers. However, clients will become more angry if they look forward to their problem being solved in a week, and instead wait a week and a half. Businesses can manage customer service expectations by clearly stating how long any particular task will take from the moment the client gets on a call until the resolution is in progress. Teams should ensure customers are well-informed of not only how long a phone call will take, but how much time and work is required to get them a solution as quickly as possible.
3. Be transparent and honest
Transparency is absolutely crucial to managing B2B customer service expectations effectively and will affect clients' ability to trust a company. Businesses can ensure clients remain confident in their providers and have a positive experience by remaining honest in every possible situation. This means if a customer service representative doesn't have the right answer to a problem, he or she should be open about consulting with other members of the team. Regardless of the situation, support teams should avoid keeping secrets at all costs.
4. Remain optimistic, but realistic
While optimism is an important part of a positive customer experience, representatives must also remain realistic about solutions. By understanding company policies, the complexities of certain problems and the workload of their team members, support experts can gauge how a particular ticket will be solved and the time investment that is required. While it can be nerve-wracking to tell a client a problem will take longer than expected to resolve, it is more important to be realistic than set expectations that can't be met.
5. Follow up regularly
Finally, support teams can manage customer service expectations by following up after each stage of the resolution process. As Customer Experience Insight pointed out, most customers are not bothered by companies touching base with them. On the contrary, clients expect businesses to follow up with them to round out their customer experience. After a customer service agent communicates the potential solutions to a problem and offers realistic timelines, he or she should follow up with the client through email to reiterate what was decided. Additionally, customer support teams should always check in with clients as the resolution progesses, and once a ticket has been closed.
There are many ways businesses can optimize their customer experience strategies. However, the first step to delivering excellence is to manage expectations effectively from the get-go.