SMEs often struggle to keep everyone happy when growing their business; customers, colleagues, employees all have different demands that are constantly changing and this can put a lot of pressure on the leadership team.
In the latest of our series of blogs about how SMEs can look at different ways to grow their business, we take a look at how setting, meeting and exceeding expectations can help to ease some of the pain.
Customers – What are yours expecting?
Setting the right expectations
Before you can start work on meeting the expectations of your customers, you need to identify what they are as part of your marketing activities. Think about;
- How do customers want to interact with your organisation? Do they come into your store, order online, or a mixture of both?
- What products are customers looking for and do you offer them? Do you provide the best quality or the best value, or both? Are you setting the right expectations for your products? Any opportunity for a customer to feel disappointed or let down because something was not communicated correctly will fail to meet their basic needs.
- What support can you provide to customers? Do you have a 24/7 support line or respond to customer tweets quickly? Do you have a customer-centric returns and complaint resolution process?
- What mission, values and promises is your company displaying? What brand image are you portraying? Setting your own metrics and properly tracking and measuring them ensures everyone is focused on delivering the same thing.
- Closing the loop is important so involve your customers by asking for their honest feedback and input. Blindly working towards something without checking what the market thinks is a sure way to create disappointment.
Meeting Expectations – is it enough?
When you have identified the needs of your customers, the bare minimum they should expect is that those needs are met.
- Can you deliver on your promises? Do you have the systems, processes and workflows in place to meet the basic needs of your customers?
- Do you have a framework to constantly review what your customers expect from you? This is never a static process and their needs and demands will change, often at a faster pace than you can handle.
- Are you happy being the company who always meets the needs of customers or do you want to offer something more? Purely meeting the needs of customers won’t guarantee a loyal customer base; a competitor willing to go the extra mile can easily capture their attention.
Exceeding expectations – where innovative companies sit
Creating exceptional customer experiences has to be what SMEs of the future are aiming for; simply meeting a need is not always going to be enough.
- How are you injecting innovation into your products and services? This is where you have the opportunity to exceed expectations for your customers; providing them with the thing they didn’t even know they needed yet.
- Can you take something basic and make it magical? For example, a simple issue such as a one-day delay on your customer receiving their non-urgent order can be transformed into an exceptional experience by providing them with free next-day delivery on their next order. It won’t cost you a lot but you will retain a positive image in the eye of the customer.
- Consistently exceeding your customer’s expectations is a tough job but will result in retaining their loyalty. This will involve risk, change and making difficult or unpopular decisions.
- You can take a failure to meet basic expectations as a springboard to exceed a customer’s opinion of your organisation (after all, it can’t get any worse!) Take the honest approach, put yourself in their shoes and provide the best solution possible.
Employee expectations – do they matter?
To forward-thinking, innovation-driven organisations the expectations of their employees are a key component of what drives the entire organisation. Let’s explore this further…
In last week’s post, we talked about the importance of empowering employees and how this is an important step to attracting and retaining the best talent in a skills drought. Part of this empowerment comes from knowing what your employees want and need to fulfill their role to their best ability.
What do your employees expect from you?
The only way to truly know this is to ask them; and be prepared for a range of answers! Having regular meetings with employees where they can openly share their successes and challenges will provide great insights into how business units can be improved and processes refined.
- What do they want to achieve in their current role?
- What do they value in their working relationships?
- What hurdles are preventing them from reaching their full potential?
- What do they think are the main expectations of your customers?
- Where do they expect the company to be in 6 months, 5 years, and 10 years?
The ironic thing about expectations is that we often blindly follow a path that we think is right without ever checking the map. How can we possibly hope to meet, or exceed, expectations if we never take the time to check what they are in the first place?
The Blue Ocean Systems team of ERP consultants knows how hard it is for SMEs to manage competing expectations and demands; they work with companies to identify avenues of improvement and bring exceptional experiences to customers, clients and end users. Talk with them today if you’re keen to exceed internal and external expectations of your company.
Note: This story has also been adapted for publication in Steemit.