Thursday, January 13, 2011

Do you deliver what you promise?

Seth Godin had a great post today about setting expectations in your marketing. He discusses the all-to-common fact that big companies advertise great customer experiences but rarely deliver. Under-delivering on a promise leads to customer disappointment. So, the choice is to either not promise anything and hope that you meet expectations OR promise something that you can deliver.

As serendipity would have it, I happened to have an interaction with customer service today. I’ve heard for years about Zappos’ legendary customer service, but, awash in advertising that promises great customer service and companies that rarely deliver, I certainly had my doubts. Could a company that processes billions of dollars of sales a year really provide great customer service? It turns out that they can. I was not only surprised, but totally blown away by the quality of service.

The fact is, most customers these days expect to be disappointed. They look at advertising that promises a great experience and instead of being inspired to try a new brand, question how it could possibly be true. Many customers, like me, doubt that any company will actually live up to (let alone exceed) their marketing.

Therefor, it does not take much to wow your customers. Even doing things as simple as showing up on time, returning calls promptly, keeping your job site clean, delivering more than was expected for your consulting contract, etc. - these are all enough to WOW your customer and generate loyalty. It’s these little things that keep customers coming back time and time again.

I see this every day here at Palo Alto Software. We’ve done away with our phone tree. Most customers can talk to a customer service agent with less than 1 minute of hold time. We let people download their software years after they purchased it - for free. It’s the little things that count and because customer service is so often bad, it’s easy to please.

Back to Seth’s post. His final word of advice is to invest the money you would have spent on advertising into actual customer satisfaction. Since great customer experiences are few and far between, a happy customer is bound to be a loyal one. And not just a loyal customer, but one that tells 10 of their friends to also use your services.

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