"It is our goal to exceed your expectations at all times" is today's customer service mantra, and it turns me off every time I hear it. My garage used to do it, and they went as far as to affix a sticker to each service bill for my car to the effect that if I was called by their factory and if I felt I could not answer all questions with "exceeded expectations" I should PLEASE first talk to them - apparently there were repercussions. eBay, I just learned, is doing the same to their best customers, the "power sellers" by asking customers to rate their performance beyond the general feedback. If they can't achieve the highest rating (which is "exceeded expectations") then their fees will go up.
What this does is to coerce us customers into giving feedback ratings that are inaccurate. What is more: the whole notion to exceed my expectations at all times as a goal is irrelevant. Dear Amazons, eBays, car dealers or whoever you are please know: you don't have to.
When I go to a website to book a flight, buy a book or whatever then what makes me happy is if you are easy to deal with, have a website that is intuitive and responsive, and deliver exactly what I want on the date we agreed upon. No nonsense. The same applies to any other business: if every supermarket customer got a free shoeshine upon leaving the store to "exceed expectations" all this would do is slow me down on my way to my next agenda item. Keeping your store clean, well organized and free from acoustic spamming meets my expectations. How many stores fail in accomplishing even that? How many businesses do NOT put you on hold when you call them?
Where it does matter to exceed expectations is when something goes wrong, or when your customer is specifically interested in something that's not "on the menu". How easy do you make it for your customer to return an item? Get support on a product? Find a product that's not in store? Solve the immediate problem quickly by offering an alternative solution while the item is fixed? Remove anxiety instead of adding to it? All major companies claim that this is who they are, but very few actually live up to their standards when challenged - as we all know.
What makes the difference is often the human factor. It's the Lufthansa staff getting out of their way to put my wife and me on a plane home after British Airways let us down royally; it's Newegg not only accepting my request for return of an erroneously purchased item but also sending me a shipping label, and paying for my return shipment... add your own examples and notice how many times a human being actually put her or his name underneath the message. Committed employees will make customers happy, "involved" employees will chicken out and hide behind their operating procedures. If you don't know the distinction (it's an old joke, I know): it's like bacon and egg. The chicken is involved in making the egg, but the pig is committed to making the bacon.
Some of you know that I am traveling in Asia right now. I had half a day to kill in Seoul yesterday prior to the arrival of my colleagues. The main contact at the company we are visiting had kindly offered to take me to Kukkiwon, the headquarter of the World Taekwondo Federation. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and afterwards he suggested to take me to an area of traditional Korean stores and restaurants. I told him kindly that while I was touched by his hospitality I was sure he had more important things to do this day than to be my tour guide, and that it would be perfectly ok if he left me to my own devices if he had to work. His answer? "You are here, so you are most important." We haven't bought a single gram of product from his company yet (he is an employee of a large corporation), but I already know that these are people we will be able to rely on. They will exceed expectations at the right time.
Thanks for stopping by. See you next week (from China),