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It’s All About the Expectations

Jim Kessler, the owner of the fabulously successful LaserTron in Buffalo, NY with the highest grossing laser tag arena in North America, recently wrote me an e-mail suggesting there needs to be a new book on customer service with the too long of a title:

Give Your Customer the Minimum They Expect During Every Encounter With Your Business (Nothing more and Nothing Less)

and the too long subtitle:

Why giving the “Minimum Expected” every single time beats “Remarkable Service” given 10% of the time (and don’t fool yourself by thinking you or anyone else has achieved remarkable service even 10% of the time).

Wow, what a breakthrough practical management idea!

Jim explained that customers don’t really want remarkable service. “She or he just wants to receive what they expected and they are thrilled when they get it—especially if they get it every single time they visit . . . You can’t find managers and staff members who can provide remarkable customer service even 10% of the time, let alone 100%.”

Jim went on to say, “If a business provides the minimum expected by the customer 99.99% of the time, it will crush any competitor who focuses on trying to achieve remarkable service 100% of the time (which is impossible).” Jim believes that when most people think they received remarkable customer service, they actually only received what they expected and were surprised when they received it. In other words, receiving basic decent customer service exceeds most peoples’ expectations.

This parallels a recent conversation I had with Frank Price, owner of Birthday University. Frank told me that after many years of trying to teach facilities how to deliver remarkable birthday parties, he has come to the conclusion that most will never be able to achieve that level of service, so he is now more focused on teaching them on how to at least deliver the basics of what a birthday party experience should be.

LaserTron’s customer service ratings from its birthday parties and groups seem to confirm this. Jim reports the parties and groups give high ratings although the business doesn’t give them remarkable service (many actually report getting remarkable service). LaserTron just gives them what they paid for and what they expected the business to deliver on a consistent basis.

Wow, this doesn’t speak too well about the customer service that most businesses are delivering to their customers. It must now generally be so low that just delivering the minimum of what people expect now gets high marks. Imagine that, not being remarkable can actually end up being remarkable.

There’s another aspect of meeting customers expectations. It’s about not setting their expectations too high to begin with. Often businesses hype their offerings in their marketing and advertising. Then when they can’t deliver what they promised, customers are disappointed and unsatisfied, whereas if their expectations had not been set so high or if they had gone in without any expectations, they would have been at least satisfied. Never make promises that you can’t consistently deliver. Rather than investing heavily in advertising and marketing, you are far better off investing in quality staff and training to deliver a consistent and acceptable experience to the customers you already have. They will then through word-of-mouth, mostly in the digital world, take care of your marketing for new customers.

The community-based entertainment and restaurant industries are highly dependent on repeat business for success. Delivering consistent customer service that at least meets minimum expectations is a far more successful management approach in getting customers to return than is shooting for remarkable customer service that rarely can be achieved.

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