How to Over-Deliver

Sometimes it can be hard to delight customers with the mundane.  In a transaction based scenario, knowing exactly which button to push during a brief encounter, while also processing a line requires a level of experience and intuition that are hard to come by.  Techniques can be learned and processes can be streamlined, but you can also build yourself a safety net to help manage and exceed expectations.  You can learn to recognize and work within the margin that lies between what the customer expects and what you are capable of delivering so that the perception is that you consistently over-deliver.

When a customer receives exactly what you have promised, their expectations have been met but they are not delighted, wowed, or completely satisfied; they are certainly not likely to become loyal members of your fan club.  To win them over, you must manage your operations and customer perceptions simultaneously.  You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Set the bar in a place that creates an opportunity for a margin – and definitely not so high that you are only able to meet it 70% of the time.
  • Set a time estimate for wait times when lines are frequent.  Letting the customer develop concerns about how long the line will take when they don’t know creates anxiety and dissatisfaction.  Being up against an invisible deadline is very hard to overcome – so create one that is reasonable and take the guessing out.  Have you noticed that transportation authorities often have freeway signs letting you know how many minutes it should take you to get to XX exit?  How nice would it be if the line to check your bags at the airport had that?  Have you counted the number of times you look at your watch when in this line – chances are, it’s borderline neurotic because it’s totally out of your control and completely ambiguous.
  • Build an extra 5 minutes into time estimate so that there is an opportunity to be pleased when helped sooner.  If you make the mistake of promising 10 minutes, and it takes 11, your credibility and customer satisfaction have been compromised whereas promising 15 and delivering in 11 is a great experience.
  1. Provide something simple, yet unexpected – a differentiator.
  • The warm, fresh cookie you used to receive on Frontier Airlines.
  • The towel animals on your cruise ship.
  • A drawing/raffle with prize.
  • The complimentary bottle of water in your hotel room.
  • The housewarming present from your realtor.
  • The employee who scans a coupon at the cash register without being asked when you didn’t bring yours in.
  • A thank you card.

Look for opportunities to over-deliver through the management of your operations, perceptions, and the margins within your customer expectations.  If your budget permits, consider doing something small yet thoughtful.  Either one will create delight and subsequent loyalty from your customers.  Please share a customer service story where the ordinary became extraordinary!


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