“I’m sorry. We cannot meet the availability date that we promised you.” These are words no one wants to say. However, due to business process failures or unforeseen external factors, every business will eventually face being unable to deliver on customer expectations that they had agreed to meet.
So, what can you do to prepare for these situations? 1) Don’t make promises you cannot keep and 2) be better than your competitors at responding to failures when they occur. For more help, let’s review some specific tips to consider:
Tip #1: Customer expectations are best managed by not overpromising what you can deliver and increasing the risk of failing to meet customer expectations.
Tip #2: The best time to “negotiate customer expectations” is when you make the commitment. The second-best time is as soon as you are aware that you can’t deliver on their customer expectations.
Tip #3: Empower your customer-facing associates to quickly address the failure to deliver on customer expectations and “make it up to the customer”. Suggested tools you can implement to help them make decisions and save the customer relationship include:
- Create pre-approved alternatives that associates can use to establish new customer expectations
- Provide them with up-to-date information on achievable due dates.
- Maintain a “forum” where your customer-facing associates can share best practices with each other when you cannot deliver on customer expectations.
Tip #4: Track all failures to meet customer expectations for analysis and action. And make sure every action item has an owner and a due date!
Tip #5: Maintain communications with the customer throughout the process (status updates). This is especially critical with major and long-term problems impacting your ability to meet customer expectations.
Tip #6: When completed, confirm that the customers are satisfied and use their feedback to improve your selection of “achievable alternatives and guidelines” based on this feedback.