If you have ever worked in customer service, you know there are times when the customer’s expectations go way beyond what can be considered normal. But in general terms, customers have certain basic expectations.
Corporations spend billions of dollars to study why consumers buy and to keep track of even subtle changes in consumer behavior. Loyalty to a brand is just one reason customers buy a product or service. But poor customer service can seriously threaten this loyalty, particularly when the customer has become accustomed to a certain standard of customer service from that brand.
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Customers now have access to various outlets to air their emotions when a brand disappoints. From social media posts, to blogs, to YouTube rants, a disgruntled customer with just a few keystrokes can make serious inroads on brand reputation. But a few companies are finally starting to realize that access to the internet has shifted the balance of power into the hands of the consumer. Most customers accept that there are times when things will not go exactly according to plan. But what they also expect is that a service-oriented company will anticipate this, and put measures in place to deal with such problems when they arise.
When a customer tweets about the bad service they experienced, this complaint is between the customer, the company, and hundreds or thousands of people who need no prompting to add their comments to the discussion. On the upside though, this public foray presents the opportunity to wow the customer and generate free publicity.
Take for example, the move by Canadian airline West Jet surprised passengers in December 2013 by greeting them with gifts from their wish list as they disembarked one of its flights. Some of these gifts included flat screen TVs that passengers had told to a virtual Santa prior to boarding. Then there was the time American Airlines responded to a passenger due to connect with one of its flights but whose plane had been delayed. Travelling with his three sons was about to get disastrous when AA responded to the passenger’s frustrated Tweets and held the flight while tweeting him boarding information.
Though bad customer service always seems to be in the news, these instances of ‘wow’ service happen in many companies everyday. But even more than that, they create loyal customers who help to spread the word and build the customer base. Exceeding customer expectations requires the business to go beyond solving the immediate need, anticipate problems and implement meaningful incentives that will build customer loyalty.
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