“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” - Roy H. Williams

What is expected of you? What’s expected of your products and services? Of how you serve your customers?


Are you confident you know?

As people our expectations change and grow – all the time.

Businesses we deal with, like Amazon and Google raise our expectations as they create innovative ways to use our data, offer us services we never knew we needed and ones we wish we’d always had. Then we use other businesses and they may offer fabulous customer service, remember who we are, be reliable and have a friendly chat when we really need a smile and maybe even a laugh to brighten our day.

Even something like website design, how easy it is to place an order, find out more about a product or service, or find useful information to answer a question, is subject to customer expectations.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, your customers are comparing you to what they’ve experienced elsewhere.

And if they’ve bought from you before, they’re comparing their current experience to all the ones before.

Then there’s new customers. What are their expectations? They have no previous knowledge or experience of doing business with you. They do have a set of expectations of service levels and product quality based on general experience of other organisations. They may have seen your marketing. They’re likely to have read reviews of your business online. They may have talked to other people about your business and heard great or not so great things.

Regardless of who walks through your door, talks to you on the phone or visits your digital channels, they all have expectations of your business.

Don’t let them down.

Unless you can pleasantly surprise them and exceed their expectations, of course!

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Ask your customers if their recent experience met, exceeded or fell below their expectations. Then ask why.

Falling below expectations isn’t great to hear. But if you ask why, you’ll know what you need to do to improve – or better manage their expectations. You know, if you find out that someone’s been overpromising, or there’s some information on your website that’s open to interpretation, like “Your order will be with you shortly” when shortly might mean minutes to someone or hours to another. Be as specific as you can be in the details you give. Tell your customers what’s going to happen and when, so they know what to expect.

Meeting expectations can be a good thing if your customer’s expectations were fairly high to begin with, but what if they weren’t. What if they’d heard some not so great things about you and what they’d heard turns out to be true. Like “They’re cheap – and you get what you pay for!” Ouch! Again, that ‘why’ will tell you what’s going wrong and you can work to turn it around. Improve your service and ‘cheap’ becomes ‘great value’.

Exceeding expectations is hard to do repeatedly. Unless expectations were low to begin with and you’re continuously improving, so every time your customers buy the experience just gets better and better. If you’re meeting high expectations you’re doing a great job. If you want to exceed expectations you’ll need to find a way to continually innovate and that can be expensive and exhausting. I’m not saying rest on your laurels, your work here is done. No – keep innovating whilst making sure you’re offering consistent quality. Don’t take your eye of the ball. Don’t rush to change something that doesn’t need changing.

When you know what your customers expect, work to deliver it. Always. Find out how to add more value by keeping that conversation with your customers going. Add your customer expectations to your customer personas – make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.