How to Manage Customer Expectations in Customer Support
Customer expectations are directly tied to your customer support team's success.
Customer support is directly connected to your customers' expectations. While you can measure success based on the number of tickets resolved, you still don't have a good indicator of how your customers actually feel about the support your customer service team provides. In order to know that, you have to be aware of what your customers expect from your company and how to manage customer expectations.
"You need to understand what they want out of your products and services."
Understand your customers As a business, you should have an idea of who your core customers are. You need to understand what they want out of your products and what is important to them when it comes to customer service. While you will no doubt come to understand your customers as you work with them, conducting research and collecting information on your customers will help you better understand them. Transactional surveys or agent ratings will provide real-time assessments of customer satisfaction every time they contact support. You can utilize customer service software to help you chronicle individual customer information, which will help you learn what makes them tick. It's especially important to make note of comments and reviews, which are an invaluable source of information regarding how well you are meeting expectations.
Under Promise and Over Deliver A study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review many years ago explained that customers have a desired customer service expectation and a sufficient one. This is still true today, and can be used to your advantage. By under promising your customer support deliverables to your customers, and then making sure you meet that promise as a minimum standard every time, you can ensure you meet minimum expectations all the time, and exceed their desired expectations more often than not. This doesn't mean you communicate to customers that your customer service is of poor quality. It simply means you never over promise. When you make extravagant claims to your customers, you set the bar so high that even one small slip-up can hurt your reputation. By setting the bar at a reasonable level, you should be able to surpass what your customers expect.
Build strong relationships Another way to manage customer expectations is to build strong relationships with your customers. When your support team treats customers as if they are a valued partner, they will begin to expect a certain type of interaction. The way in which this relationships develops is completely in your control, so make sure you get off on the right foot and that every interaction after that supports your customer expectation management goals. When you approach each ticket as a genuine person trying to solve another person's problem, your customers will come to know and respect you as just that - a real human being doing their best to help. This type of relationship also builds the foundation for a higher level of empathy, which can come in handy if more difficult challenges arise at a later date that either can't be resolved or take longer to address than usual.
Consistency An important part of building a strong relationship that will help manage and establish the right customer expectations is consistency. When customers are treated similarly every time they interact with your support team, they come to an understanding of what working with your company is like. If you don't establish a consistent rapport with your customers, they will never really have a grasp on the relationship they have with you. This can lead to customers feeling confused and untrusting of your company.
"Properly training your customer service reps will help improve consistency."
Properly training your customer service reps will help create a consistent customer experience. When everyone goes through the same training process and are taught the same techniques, they handle customer situations in a similar way. Additionally, equipping reps with the right customer service tools will help them provide the same style and level of support. Likewise, when reps all use the same database of customer information within a shared customer support software system, it will be easier for them to act consistently. Utilizing the same information will also eliminate duplication of data, making each customer interaction more efficient.
Stay away from scripted interactions. Customers want to talk with real people. A rep using a script will likely just annoy them, and this will damage the expectations that you've worked so hard to build with each and every customer. Keep a focus for the customer support team on providing personal, professional care to each ticket as it comes in.
Avoid poor service at all costs If you provide poor service to your customers and they grow to expect that as the norm, there is little chance they'll stick with your company. Even worse, they'll likely tell others about their poor experience, which can drastically damage your reputation and hurt your bottom line. For this reason, you need to keep customer expectations high, without setting them so high you can't deliver. One important part of this is to respond quickly. Some companies focus on 24 hour turnaround on all customer service tickets, other 48 hours. When you make the decision to commit to a fast turnaround, make sure you can do it every time. This doesn't mean fully resolving each ticket in that amount of time. All you need to do is tell the customer that customer service reps are working on finding a solution. Set a realistic standard of service, and then stick to it.