Every time your phone rings, your customers expect someone is going to pick up.
Every time you receive an email, your customers expect a reply.
Every time you receive a comment on your Facebook page, your customers expect a response.
As a small business owner, you’ve got to find a way to manage their expectations while still being able to manage your business.
You can’t just spend all of your time answering the phone—you still need to deliver outstanding customer service, make the best use of your time, and sell-sell-sell!
When it comes to managing expectations, a little effort will definitely go a long way. In fact, it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid frustrating your customers.
1. Identify key priorities
Choose what’s important and what isn’t. You definitely want to respond to your customers in a timely manner, but you also can’t let phone calls and emails consume your entire day—especially when you’re short staffed.
Make sure you’re able to support your vendors, strategic partners, and those you do business with and that you’re able to carve out some time to focus on the real differentiator for your business (ie baking bread). Instead of sitting by the phone or monitoring your inbox, find some time to check in and respond throughout the day.
2. Establish rules of engagement
Managing customer expectations means you’ve got to establish rules for engagement that clearly define how and when you’re going to follow up as well as why there might be any possible delays.
If you’re a baker and you never answer the phone in the morning because you’re busy baking bread, that’s something you need to communicate in your voicemail message. You can’t assume your customers will automatically know that’s what you’re doing. By not answering, they might think you’re closed or that you are blowing them off when you’re actually busy crafting delicious treats.
3. Communicate expectations with your customers
Most brick and mortar businesses post their hours of operation on their front door. Yet, when it comes to other forms of communication, they don’t always follow suit.
If you’re going to be away from the office for the rest of the afternoon, set your e-mail out-of-office greeting and update your voicemail message accordingly. Doing so only takes a few minutes, and can avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches and frustrated customers.
Personally, I know it can make a big difference. I was having a conversation with a graphic designer colleague a few days ago and she ended by communicating expectations on when she would follow and I have to tell you, it was amazingly refreshing. I didn’t have to ask, probe, or pry—she offered it up and I really appreciated it.
How do you manage customer expectations?
Share your ideas in the comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Andres Rueda]