Exceeding customer expectations; The unachievable myth

Management literature is replete with advice that businesses should strive to Exceed Customer Expectations. A search on Google of the exact phrase “exceeding customer expectations” turns up 448,000 entries. The management literature often criticizes a 'satisfied' customer as a level of service that is below what will make a business successful. This is all a marketing myth and not sound advice.

The only thing a customer cares about is this, "Am I going to get what I thought I was paying you for every single time?" This is all that customers want and if we give them exactly what they thought they were paying for, they will be satisfied and return. In today’s world, most businesses fail to consistently give customers what they expect, let alone exceed expectations. Customers are delighted and more than satisfied to just get what they expected to pay for since they are disappointed so often by not getting it.

What business success requires is a satisfied customer, a customer that gets exactly what they paid for, no more and certainly no less. If you provide them with exactly what they paid for, they will be satisfied and return.

It is impossible to execute the basics and give customers what they expect for what they pay 100% of the time as businesses are dependent on a workforce of people who are imperfect and, unlike machines, cannot replicate every action exactly right a million times in a row with no emotions. What makes a business great is their ability to execute the basics, what the customer is paying for and expects 95% of the time. Businesses then need a system in place to identify and make up to the customer for the 5% of the time they fail to deliver on the basics.

Most companies who are known for providing 'Great Customer Service' don't actually provide more than they were actually selling in the first place. They just are so consistent at providing the basics of what the customer actually paid them for that it feels like Great Customer Service. When there are stories about exceeding customer expectations, they are not the norm but rather the rare exception.

A big problem today is that a large part of the time so many businesses over promise and under deliver, so customer expectations are rarely met and all they do is produce dissatisfied customers.

Consistently exceeding expectations is impossible to achieve with the workforce that works in location-based entertainment venues and FECs. Just meeting expectations alone is a major challenge. The other issue is that if you were able to consistently exceed expectations, customer’s expectations would increase with each return visit. Exceeding those expectations would become increasingly more difficult and the chance of delivering on that raised expectation would soon approach zero. So then the customer is not satisfied, as they received less then they expected and paid for.

Customer Satisfaction =

What customer expects to get minus
What they perceive they get.

Stick to the basics and put systems and training in place to consistency deliver what the customer expects to get and is paying you for. You don’t have to give them any more than that to deliver Great Customer Service.

Additional reading: It’s all about expectations