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Make Sure Customers Get What They Need from Customer Service

Danger Expectations"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need." – The Rolling Stones

Customers who have a question or a problem want an immediate response, and they want it on whatever channel they use to contact the company — including social media platforms. Companies want customers to be happy, so they want to provide an immediate response on whatever channel the customer is using. This is what both parties want. But what do they need?

I hear so many vendors and brands lamenting the challenges of real-time response and engagement. We live in a world of pervasive communications — chaotic, hyper-connected, ubiquitous and non-linear. This puts pressure on businesses to react and respond in kind. Yes, tools and processes can help you scale, but there's a limit when you're dealing with finite resources. 

Let me change the conversation. Is it more about what you want, or what you need? A big source of conflict and frustration in customer service revolves around one simple but important factor: expectations

There's too much conversation around the speed with which response and transactions are managed. It's the wrong conversation. Customer service is not about speed. It's about expectations and satisfaction. For businesses, setting and managing customer expectations may be the single most important step to improve customer service.

How are you setting expectations for your customers? Bottom line: if you aren't setting them, then your customers are setting them for you, and if you don’t meet the expectations they set, they may decide to express their dissatisfaction on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, sharing their experience with their friends, who are your potential customers. This is why it’s so important to manage their expectations. You can’t control what customers tweet or post, but if you set realistic expectations and meet them, chances are they’ll have a positive experience to share.

You give your customers an instruction manual for your product. How about for your customer service?

When people start a journey, they like to know a few things. What is the route? How long will it take? What will they need to bring with them? What are the potential obstacles or pitfalls? Customer service is a journey. The customer has a need and is on a journey to find the answer / solution / resolution. 

As a business leader, you need to ask yourself the question: Are you telling your customers how to get the best service from you?

Consider what you can control and what you can't. You can't control how quickly you can resolve an issue. You can't even control how quickly you can respond to an issue. If you run a small business, or even a medium-sized or large business, you don't have unlimited resources. What you can do is set expectations for a response and — most importantly — meet those expectations. 

Here are some simple steps you can take to manage customer expectations:

  • Update your email signature: "I generally respond to emails within 24 hours. If this is urgent, try..."
  • If you're not set up to handle social well, update your Twitter profile: "We love to engage on the Twitter, but for the best response on a customer service issue, try our website at..."
  • Find a social customer service solution: Better yet, find a way to respond to customers who contact you via social platforms. There are solutions on the market that aggregate tweets, Facebook posts and other social media contacts under a single dashboard as resolution tickets.
  • If you're working on a problem that's expected to take a long time to resolve, check in: "We just wanted to let you know we're still working on the issue and we expect it to be resolved as originally stated…"
  • If you're working on a problem and realize it's going to take longer to resolve, offer an update: "We just wanted to let you know we're working on the problem, but it's going to take some more time resolve. We expect to resolve it by..."

Most of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty, and that's what we experience when we can't see the road in front of us. It creates stress and friction, which negatively impact the customer experience. Due to limited resources, we can’t always get what we want. But by carefully setting and managing your customers’ expectations, you can make sure your customers — and your company — get what they need.

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