Steer Your Career: "Richard Branson on the Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations"
Aug 2, 2012
Posted by Richard Branson | July 16, 2012
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. What follows is the latest edited round of insightful responses. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Question: How does Virgin manage to deliver impeccable customer service that at times seems to be above and beyond the norm while keeping prices competitive? And why is it that so many other businesses only seem to be able to deliver either low prices with no service, or high prices for good service? — Ryan Morphett, via Entrepreneur magazine
Answer: When you are making a decision about how best to serve your customers, your own experience is often a better guide than a more sophisticated analysis of the market. I find that I am often more disappointed by expensive goods and services than I am by lower-priced ones because my expectations are often overinflated when I pay a high price, but I have few expectations when I pay a low price. If a top-of-the-line product or service doesn’t work as I had hoped, I might think: “At that price I really expected something better.” But if something is disappointing at the other end of the scale, I’m likely to think: “I’ve only got myself to blame,” and “Oh well, I guess you get what you pay for.”
A question that often appears on customer surveys is: “Did we meet your expectations?” If the response is in the affirmative, the company may conclude that they must have done a good job – which may not necessarily be the case. Consider a situation where a customer who has had a bad prior experience comes in with very low expectations. When a client anticipates that service will be lousy and that’s precisely what they get, then technically their expectations have been met.
The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways. Setting customer expectations at a level that is aligned with consistently deliverable levels of customer service requires that your whole staff, from product development to marketing, works in harmony with your brand image.