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Exceeding Expectations While Flying Blind

By October 15, 2018 No Comments

There are 3 possible outcomes from any interaction with a customer:

  1. Fall short of their expectations – which we know is unacceptable
  2. Meet their expectations – which is also unacceptable (more on that later)
  3. Exceed their expectations – which, of course, is the only acceptable outcome.
Why can’t we just meet their expectations?

On the surface, meeting someone’s expectations would seem to be a fine outcome. I disagree. When you meet someone’s expectations, they get what they wanted, but they just go away. They don’t remember the interaction. That exchange of value or time just blends into the noise of their lives. We can’t focus on every interaction we have, nor can we pay attention to everything around us. There just isn’t enough room on our personal hard drives.

How can you hit a target you can’t see?

While exceeding their expectations should be our goal, how can you exceed them if you don’t know what they are? Sure, some of their expectations are more tangible. You have a contract to provide them with certain products and/or services, on a certain date and time. That’s the easy part. It’s the intangible expectations that are harder to exceed, because you don’t always know what they are.

I was once at a dinner with all of the C-suite executives (CEO, CFO, CTO…) and Vice Presidents for the company where we worked at the time. It was a new steakhouse, and none of us had ever dined there. We had heard good things about it and were anticipating a nice experience. Some of what would go into that experience was in the control of the restaurant and some was not. The ambience was nice (dark woods, elegant feel), training the staff was in their control, the quality of the food was in their control, etc. What was not in their control was that it was zero degrees outside, blowing wind and snow. During dinner half of us had to put our coats on, because the heat couldn’t keep up with the frigid cold outside (the insulation on the windows was in their control).

The best you’ve ever had?

Our waiter was enthusiastic and seemed knowledgeable about the menu. He gave us great detail about the beef that they sourced, and claimed that it was the top 5% of beef in the country. It was butchered at the farm, vacuum sealed, and not opened until we ordered it; and that’s when he tripped up (in my opinion). He looked around all of us as he declared, “This is going to be the best steak you’ve ever eaten!” Really? How could he know that? I looked around the table and saw at least 2 or 3 people who had eaten Kobe beef – in Japan!!

In all fairness, there’s no way he could have known that; and that’s exactly my point. He just claimed that they were going to hit a target for all 15 of us, not knowing what that target was for any of us. Oh, I neglected to mention that we were in Omaha, Nebraska… known for its beef. Sure, for some of us it may have been the best steak they’d ever had, or at least up there with them. Personally, I remember that it was good, but what I remember more was how cold it was in the restaurant, as I dined on my “top 5%” steak, wearing my winter coat. Whether it was, or wasn’t, the best steak I’ve ever had, it certainly wasn’t the best dining experience I’d ever had.

The best you’ve ever had? – Part II

As I travel, extensively, and I speak about reviews, I’m also an active contributor to TripAdvisor. You need 50 reviews to be considered a “Top Reviewer”; I’ve recently posted my 537threview (I guess I’m an overachiever). I remember the first time I tried to post a 5-star review for a restaurant: Le Crocodile, in Vancouver, BC. When I clicked the 5-star button, a message box popped up which asked, “Was this one of the best meals you’ve ever had in a restaurant?” Whoa! That was an interesting query. You see, it’s different for a meal at a restaurant than it is for a wedding. You’re likely to dine out again, soon. Couples don’t expect to be having a wedding again – and as a side note, I just read that the divorce rate is coming down, partly due to millennials getting married later.

If this was your first wedding, and you carefully selected the best wedding pros, and you were very happy, then it’s easy to see why there are so many 5-star reviews. What do you have to compare it with? Very little, if anything. Where you find the difference between highly rated businesses is in the nuance of what they say, not in the number rating. So, was Le Crocodile one of the best meals I’d ever had in a restaurant? Why yes! I mentioned this restaurant to someone from Vancouver today and she gave me a very jealous look, and made a satisfied sound, just from the thought. It is fine dining, for sure.

Does the price matter?

We each set the bar for every experience, based upon our past experiences. We also set the bar based upon the price. The higher the price, the higher the bar they have to reach, just to meet our expectations. The thing is, much of our experience is in the intangibles – the warm greeting with a smile, their body language, whether they’re being present, etc. Teddy Roosevelt is reported to have said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Showing how much you care has nothing to do with price. I’ve been telling audiences a story about Brianna, the drive-through clerk at a McDonald’s in Las Vegas. For all of a $1.08 order, she was friendly, attentive, made good eye-contact, showed genuine care, and blew away the four of us in my car that day – so much so, that we called the phone number on the receipt and retold our story to the customer service representative.

When I told the person on the phone about how great our experience was, and that Brianna was a credit to their organization, there was silence on the other end. No doubt – stunned silence. She thanked us for calling and said that they don’t get many phone calls like that. (I can imagine that she gets yelled at… a lot.) I told her that if they had more employees like Brianna, they would get more phone calls like that. It didn’t take Brianna any more time, money, or effort, to make us feel special. Sure, the bar was lower for McDonald’s, but if this had been at a mid-priced restaurant, I still would have been impressed. As a matter of fact, I’d bet she’d make people’s day at a high-end restaurant.

Do you know where the bar is for your customers?

I can assure you that you don’t know where the bar is for every customer. That would be impossible. If they read your reviews, they’ll get an idea of what you did for others, but they don’t know where the bar was for those reviewers, only that you did, or did not, exceed their expectations. As I’ve often said, “I don’t want to be the best I’ll ever be. I want to be the best I’ve ever been, every time.” The most we can each do is to keep pushing our own level of service up, every time, and then both you, and your customers win!

© 2018 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions


Want my advice on how to get it right, and exceed your customer’s expectations?

Listen to what these wedding pros – people just like you – have said after working with me, then contact me via emailtext, use the short form on this page, or call 732.422.6362, international enquiries 001 732 422 6362.

I was a part of Alan’s mastermind sales training one week ago in Pittsburgh, and it was the most effective sales training I’ve ever taken. I have been putting what I learned into action and have seen immediate results!  He gives great tips for communicating with your client more efficiently. I HIGHLY recommend Alan to anyone looking to increase their sales productivity!
– Laura Madison, Bella Sera, Pittsburgh, PA

Every once in a while you have an experience that makes you think “Why don’t I do this more often?” This workshop was one of those experiences. When you run your own business, it becomes difficult to take the time to invest back into yourself and your business skills. I am glad I took the time to attend and participate because I found the information valuable and confidence-building.
– Theresa Kaufman Events & PR, Pittsburgh, PA

Alan was absolutely amazing. We set up a date for him to come and speak to my staff, my partners and myself. I learned so much from him, I didn’t want his visit to end. I definitely recommend you hire him to speak if you are like me and are always looking to better yourself and your business.
– Michael Greegoro, Partners in Sound, Staten Island, NY


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