Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 14th 2016 Contents Like me, I m sure that you ve
dutifully filled out customer
service surveys once or twice in
your life that asked questions
like: did the service meet your
The tragic flaw inherent in these types of
questionnaires is that the people asking these
sorts of questions invariably have no inkling
as to what, if any, expectations you had about
the service. Yet when a customer answers
"yes," the company is almost guaranteed to
interpret the response as real praise.
If companies have no basis upon which to
make such assumptions, the feedback just
isn t extremely valuable. (After all, if you
expected that the service would be poor and
it was poor, then your expectations were tech-
In his 1993 book, Raving Fans, the man-
agement consultant Ken Blanchard wrote, "If
your customers are only satisfied because their
expectations are low and because no one else
is doing better, then having satisfied customers
isn t good enough anymore." He continued:
"If you really want a booming business, you
have to create raving fans."
On first glance, that sort of advice might
seem obvious, but I am constantly amazed at
how many businesses fail to grasp the simple
truth that providing a satisfactory experience
for customers is just not good enough. If your
company is going to stand out from the
mediocre masses that populate most industries,
you absolutely must set your sights on pro-
viding nothing but consistently superior cus-
tomer service every moment of every day.
Don t aim to match expectations, exceed them.
Or at least set the bar very high.
Of course, before you can so this, you have
to understand exactly what customers expect.
If you are a startup, consider yourself lucky
that you have a blank slate on which to map
out who and what you want to be, and how
best to represent that to customers. However,
if you re running a company that s been around
for a while, the task of assessing your clients
expectations---and possibly recalibrating them---
becomes considerably more daunting.
Someone once told me that resting on your
laurels only guarantees one outcome: a thorn
in your rear end! It s true. When it comes to
customer satisfaction, many legacy companies
often seem content to rest on their brand s
dusty laurels. In their view, perceptions about
their products or services are as "satisfactory"
today as they were in the companies heydays.
In reality, however, some companies have
unknowingly become shadows of their former
And even if you ve managed to improve
service, perception takes a while to catch up
with a new reality.
For instance, think of an expensive restaurant
that over time developed a reputation for good
food, but which had dreadful service. If the
restaurant then brings on a brilliant new maître
d who drives the customer experience to new
heights on every count, it will still take some
time to for the old perception to adjust to the
So, how does one go about establishing real-
istic, achievable customer expectations while
accurately balancing perception and reality?
In my experience, the smartest approach is
to tap into the street-smart wisdom held by
your own service delivery team. These days,
lots of customer intelligence can be extracted
from big data streams, and that s helpful in
some cases, but for an uncensored view, look
to your team.
When it comes to customer satisfaction,
they see the good, the bad and the ugly on
a daily basis. They will know whether or not
cozy boardroom assumptions of the company
brand actually align with customers expec-
tations and experiences. They can also tell you
if and where the company is overpromising,
and where it s underdelivering. Most important,
your front-end team has the objectivity to
recommend course changes.
Yes, customer surveys can lead to increased
engagement with clients and foster a sense of
inclusion if companies covet people s opinions
and occasionally act on their input. However,
I don t subscribe to the notion that the cus-
tomer is always right. Expectations and desires
tend to be deeply subjective and at times not
very realistic. That s why managers should
never forget to seek insiders perspectives.
When Ken Blanchard wrote about creating
"raving fans" he was alluding to external cus-
tomers, but why stop there? If you can suc-
cessfully redefine what your brand really stands
for today and toss out any leftover laurels, it
might just earn you a few in-house raving
fans on your staff. And it s workers like these
who will make sure that your customers are
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
Richard.Branson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, email address and the
name of the website or publication where
you read the column.)
JULY 14 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Great or grating expectations?
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