Monday, 17 March 2014

Silent Expectations & Customer Experience

Every service professional is aware of the importance of good customer service.  We all know that failing to deliver good customer service can result in a loss of customers. 

What is often missed is that you can deliver exactly what the customer requests yet still lose their long term custom by failing to understand and meet their silent expectations.

The service industry is full of examples where the customer is provided with exactly what he / she requests yet their overall customer experience is well below standard. 
Consider my basic fast food example below:

I recently visited a newly opened fish and chip shop in my local area.  I walked into the shop and the man serving did not say a word as I approached the counter.  He did not ask what I wanted instead simply raised his head slightly as a signal that he was ready for me to speak.  I asked for a bag of chips and was deliberate in my use of "please".  The man behind the counter remained silent, filled a bag with chips and wrapped them promptly.  His only verbal noise throughout the entire transaction was to say "£1.60" no please or thank you.  I handed him £5 he placed the change on the counter, did not say a word, did not look at me and raised his head again towards the next customer. 

In this example I received the product I asked for, efficiently wrapped by the server so by definition I received customer service.  By contrast the customer experience was very poor. 

This failure was nothing to do with the product (the chips were actually quite pleasant!) it was because the service provider failed to deliver on almost every one of my silent expectations i.e.

  • No greeting.
  • No warmth or rapport.
  • No verbal interaction whatsoever.
  • No willingness or interest in delivering anything other than what is asked for.
  • No offer of basic condiments i.e. salt and vinegar.
  • No option for having the food open or wrapped.
  • No attempt to up sell i.e. drinks.
  • No basic manners i.e. please or thank you.
  • No attempt to hand the change back to the customer.
  • No closing thank you or appreciation for custom.
  • No eye contact.
  • No polite parting comments / goodbye.
    The end result is a customer lost despite that customer being entirely satisfied with the product!
    The lesson to learn is that no matter how brief or inexpensive the customer transaction it is simply not enough just to deliver what the customer wants.  To deliver an exceptional customer experience we must tap into and deliver on their silent expectations - as well as delivering good service / products.
    Silent expectations are a challenge because in most cases they remain just that - silent.  The customer does not outline their expectations at the start of the interaction and more worryingly they often do not tell us if we have failed to deliver on these.  They simply walk away and never return.
    Simple tips
    If you are responsible for assessing the quality of calls within your team / company take time to think about your customer's silent expectations and if possible brainstorm a list of these with some colleagues.
    Now take a look at your internal call assessment sheets / procedures.  Do your call assessments address your customer's silent expectations?  If not (and most don't) then consider changing this.
    The first change you can make is to add a section which looks at the customer's closing comments.  The customer's comments at the very end of the telephone conversation are tremendously revealing and provide an instinctive, genuine and accurate reflection of their experience.  These customer comments are gold dust for the service professional. 
    Internal assessors of telephone quality are often obsessed with making sure staff say exactly the right thing at the end of a call (Thank you for calling...Is there anything else I can help you with...etc) yet they hardly ever focus on the customer's final remarks.
    On your next call assessment, take time to listen carefully and note the customer's exact closing comments.  If the customer has just had a very good experience this will almost certainly be reflected in their closing words. 
    If you would like advice on what you should be looking for or how to amend your call assessment sheets email me directly