One of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice to those facing difficult times is “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Getting too caught up in the minutiae, and caring too much about the things that don’t really matter in the larger scheme of things, is often a surefire path to exhaustion and unhappiness — not to mention, when you are spending so much time worrying about small thins, the big things often go ignored.
While this might be excellent advice when it comes to ensuring your overall happiness in life, when it comes to delivering excellent customer service, the exact opposite is true. The fact is customers want your basic product or service to be excellent. They aren’t concerned about the bells and whistles if you can’t deliver on your core promises and deliver your main service well. In fact, if you don’t “do what you do” well, offering a wide range of extras can actually backfire on you.
What Do Customers Really Want?
According to research published in MIT’s Sloan Review, great customer service comes down to one simple principle: You must meet customer expectations. Most customer dissatisfaction stems from a disconnect between what a customer hopes for and what actually takes place. Most customers have a threshold for what they would find acceptable — and it’s not the same for everyone — and what constitutes missing the mark entirely.
In most cases, a customer hopes that all interactions with your company will go smoothly, and that you will meet their needs. They want you to follow through on your promises. However, that doesn’t always happen. For example, health care providers, because their Medicare reimbursement is partially determined by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores, have ramped up their efforts in the areas measured by those scores, particularly concerning improving patient-provider communication.
Except not all providers who have put time and money into such efforts are seeing results, in large part because patients aren’t necessarily basing their assessments of care on those particular points. A patient may give their provider a low rating because they didn’t feel that the room was clean enough, or because they felt the bed or exam room was uncomfortable.
As mentioned in an article in Becker Hospital Review, hospitals can offer “perks” like valet parking or customized dining menus, but if they aren’t delivering on the basic promises of quality, effective care, then patients won’t be happy. In other words, getting the seemingly small stuff — the basics — right has a greater influence on customer satisfaction than elaborate amenities.
Meeting Customer Needs
The key to satisfied customers, then, boils down to one question: What do your customers expect — and how can we give it to them?
However, you cannot meet expectations based on your own assumptions. What you think your customers want and what they actually want could be different things. You need to ask your customers what they want, and really listen to their answers.
For example, going back to health care, many home health providers use home care software that provides easy communication portals between patients, families, and providers. Providers can take notes of interactions with their patients, record preferences, and share that information easily with other providers to ensure that care is seamless and patients are satisfied.
It may not be quite so easy for you to learn and record your customer preferences, but you do have some tools at your disposal for making progress in that area.
- Customer satisfaction surveys. Capture information about customer opinions and your success in meeting expectations; send surveys post experience
- Online reviews. Customers aren’t generally shy about sharing experiences when their expectations aren’t met.
- Focus groups. Gather groups of customers to discuss your business and what they like/dislike and what they want from you.
- Social media. Use your social media accounts to engage with your customers and find out what is working and what isn’t.
- Competitor analysis. You can learn a lot from what your competitors are (and aren’t) doing. Pay attention to their reviews and social media feeds, and what they are offering. How can you differentiate yourself to better meet your customer’s needs?
- Customer relationship managers. In some cases, you may be able to use a CRM system to record customer preferences and refer back to them later. When appropriate, take notes on customer records for your regulars so you can delight them later on by delivering personalized service.
Walt Disney once said, ““Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” In other words, focus on the “small stuff,” not the extras, and you’ll see the results in your bottom line.