If you read our last post we mentioned we would be talking a lot about customer relationship management. That is where we’ll start off today. However, before we delve into the best tools to help you manage your customers, we need to take a quick look at what makes customers happy.

Exceeding Customer Expectations

We’ve all heard the saying, “exceed customer expectations.” Turns out that this isn’t the best idea if you are trying to keep continuing customers (in fact it may be impossible). The reason is that people ‘s expectations change extremely rapidly. I’m sure many of you have seen the great Saturday Night Live Clip where a comedian talks about a recent airplane trip he took. For the first time ever the plane was offering Internet. As everyone opened their laptops they were extremely amazed that they could be surfing the Internet while flying at incredible speeds. After about 15 minutes the Internet went down and one of the guys next to the comedian started cussing saying “This is a bunch of bull X&*@.”

It took all of 15 minutes for the airline customer to adjust his expectations. For maybe the first 5 minutes the airline was exceeding expectations and everyone was happy. However the minute the Internet went down some of the customers couldn’t believe it wasn’t working. Never mind the fact that they are flying!

Quality customer service consists of meeting not exceeding customer expectations. When you meet a customer’s expectations, he or she is completely satisfied and is likely to return for more. If you exceed customer expectations the customer is delighted, but the next time the customer returns she will expect the same amount of service as last time. In order to exceed expectations again you will have to do something better than the last time; eventually this becomes impossible.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to improve your customer service, but do it at your own risk. You don’t want to start a spiral of expectations that you can’t meet.

Humans Crave Consistency

On a related topic if you want to offer quality customer services then you will want to offer consistent service. This is an odd psychological behavior by humans, but when we go somewhere we want to have the same experience over and over. For example, I used to have a favorite barbecue restaurant that served up some great grub. Eventually I moved away from this restaurant. However after a few months living in the new area I was completely excited to see that my favorite BBQ restaurant was only a few blocks away. I headed on over to the restaurant and everything was the same but one thing: instead of a self-serve it was a sit down restaurant. I wasn’t able to get up and grab my favorite sauces and banana peppers. The food was exactly the same, but I felt violated. My BBQ restaurant wasn’t supposed to be a sit-down restaurant. I haven’t been back since. Customers want consistency.

Let the Stragglers Go

You can’t provide excellent customer service to everyone. Unfortunately ambitious business owners try to please all of their customers (even the ones that aren’t profitable). The problem arises when unprofitable customers get in the way of profitable customers. Make sure to spend time learning which of your customers are profitable and which are not. Once you find your profitable customers give them consistent quality service. Don’t exceed their expectations, but meet them regularly. As for the unprofitable customers, try pawning them off to your competitors and chuckle to yourself as his business sinks even though his customer base is growing. Okay that may be a little cynical, but remember to focus on your best customers.

Buy Customer Relationship Management Tools

Invest in some customer relationship management (CRM) software and tools. Providing customers quality service takes money. Look for tools that will help you track your customers habits and patterns. Find trends and use them not only to make your company more money, but also to provide consistent service to your customers.

There are a lot of resources out there on how to provide high quality customer service. This is only meant to be an introduction. As time allows I will come back and add some of the best resources available. For now please feel free to add comments and resources below.

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