Giving Customers What You Want Them to Want
Often customer expectations are misaligned with company offerings. This may be because a customer has unrealistically high expectations, or it may be because a company has created an expectation that it does not or cannot meet.
Take, for example, two dining experiences I had when visiting New Orleans.
The first was during brunch at Brennan's. When my husband, Kevin, made the reservation, the reservationist asked if it was a special occasion. Kevin said, "Yes, it's my wife's birthday."
Fast-forward to Sunday brunch at Brennan's: Kevin and I enjoyed a delicious, abundant meal, and fantastic service. Immediately after our server gave us our check, other servers brought dessert and a chef's hat to a nearby table, and sang "Happy Birthday."
This made me wonder (aloud, of course) why the reservationist had asked if we were celebrating a special occasion, since the servers didn't come out singing with our dessert.
Kevin asked the maitre d' about this on our way out, and his response was not to apologize or to offer to somehow meet the expectation they had created, but to blame our server for forgetting.
Contrast this with our dinner at Commander's Palace the following night. Commander's Palace has a stellar reputation for both food and service. That night was no exception. However, Kevin likes his food piping hot, and his main course was brought to the table only warm. Within moments of our waiter returning the food to the kitchen to not just be reheated, but to be re-created from scratch, dining room manager Jimmy Bates appeared at our table. After extending his apologies, he insisted on buying us dessert.
After our meal Jimmy gave us a tour of the kitchen and gardens. Even though the restaurant was packed and he was busy, he never rushed us. He answered our questions and regaled us with the history of the restaurant and its great chefs. He even hailed us a cab himself at the conclusion of the tour. In other words, he ensured that Commander's Palace lived up to the expectations it has set.
Two articles in this issue specifically discuss creating and meeting customer expectations: "Setting and Managing Your Customers' Expectations" (page 32) and "Complaints Are Great. Keep Them Coming" (Straight Talk, page 24). Additionally, this month's cover story, "One Company, Two CRM Strategies" (page 26), discusses how The Schwan Food Company builds relationships by meeting its customers' changing needs and expectations. All three articles offer insight into strategies that can work for any company.