You’ve heard the story a thousand times. Customer expectations are higher than ever. Customers want what they want, when they want it. They even want you to know what they want, before they even know what they want.
You’ve probably heard the stats before, too:
- 33% of Americans will switch companies after one instance of bad customer service.
- US companies lose $62 billion a year due to poor customer service.
- Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish (multiple sources and multiple skeptics alike).
But what happens when customer expectations are off the charts, and cross over into unrealistic? We asked customer experience pros for their anecdotal stories about encounters with unrealistic customer expectations, and what we got in return was a pleasant surprise – these pros not only handled angry customers and negative situations with grace, but turned them into positive, lasting relationships with loyal customers.
Here’s how they did it.
Story #1: Literally going the extra mile
In this day and age, there are no unrealistic expectations. It’s our jobs to fulfill our customers’ needs no matter how extreme or unattainable.
I’ll give you an example. During Hurricane Harvey, there were many logistical issues that resulted in shipping delays. We had a customer who needed their very sizeable order, which just happened to be custom printed with the name and date of their event, for a very important conference. UPS and FedEx were completely offline, so their order wasn’t going to make it in time. A team member and I rented a U-Haul and drove from Illinois to Texas and then to Pennsylvania – delivering their goods in time for their show.
- Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder/President, Quality Logo Products
Story #2: Brutal honesty
Customers often want things to be high quality, cheap, and quickly provided. The reality is that you can only provide 2 of these at a time.
You have to acknowledge that your customers are not experts in your business. They’re coming to you because you’re the expert. Because of this, they may not understand the current market demands and processes to complete the service. As a customer service professional, it’s your job to explain and guide them on the current market’s trends and why their expectation may be unrealistic. Provide reasons, data, and real-world examples of why it is unrealistic while being careful not to offend them.
For example, we had a client that was looking to hire a candidate at a certain price point. The candidate they wanted needed to meet a large list of requirements and was also requested to come from a direct competitor. On average, this is not an issue if we are able to offer an increase in their compensation. Keep in mind, happy candidates will not voluntarily jump ship from a secure job they enjoy for a lateral or backwards move.
After providing real life examples in real time for them to reference, expectations were organically adjusted once we invested time to explain market trends to the customer.
- Evan Donahue, Sales and Recruiting Manager, JMJ Phillip Group
Story #3: Making something out of nothing
As the founder of a business planning company, we work one-on-one with customers, helping them bring their ideas to life. To write someone’s business plan, you must be able to take their entire vision and transform it into a viable strategy. In the beginning stages, sometimes we may misinterpret an aspect of a client’s business or not place top importance on elements that they find critical. At the start of the relationship, this can make them extremely wary and in one specific case, even led to an extremely unhappy client.
Like all clients, this client filled out our questionnaire, but they left it extremely vague. Furthermore, they missed out on our ‘discovery’ meeting where we would ask additional questions to become more familiar with their business. After the first major section was done, we submitted it, as always. The client sent back a message that clearly displayed their dissatisfaction. Although only 10% of the project had been completed, they mentioned that they were unsure that we were capable of delivering the product that they were looking for. Although I was taken aback, I was up for the challenge.
I asked the client a series of questions to better understand their business and committed to them that we would get it right. We had a team meeting to further discuss the client and ensure that we fully understood their vision.
We went over and above and it paid off, immediately. While it required extra work that we wouldn’t have had to put in if the client had provided the right information up front, it was worth it to maintain the business relationship. The client temperature immediately changed when we presented the second draft. This same client ended up leaving us a great review and bringing us several referrals after their project was complete!
- Mike Sims, CEO/Founder, ThinkLions
Story #4: Good things take time
SEO is a concept that most people do not grasp right away. We preface all of our early interactions with a warning that results will not be seen immediately, but clients still expect to see results when they start paying us.
We had a client with a brand new website in a very competitive space attempt to get out of their contract because they did not see results that they wanted, even though we told them it could take 6 – 9 months to start seeing a serious amount of leads coming through the website. We are now 7 months into their contract and they are getting more than enough leads to justify the cost that they paid upfront and are happy with our services.
We were able to reaffirm that we are doing SEO the right way by showing multiple case studies of past and current clients and their traffic is almost identical to our other clients. We are now in a very good spot with the client and look forward to many more years of working with them!
- Bryan Pattman, SEO Analyst, 9Sail
Story #5: A legal lesson learned the hard way
Having worked in the digital marketing agency for 5+ years, I have had a few instances where customers have had the wrong expectations set for their marketing campaigns due to a disconnect between our product people and our sales team.
One example that comes to mind was dealing with a client that believed that their initial one-time fee for a new website covered any additional website updates, including creating a brand new website from scratch! This was due to verbiage in their contract reading “any website changes we will cover for free” which made them think that “changes” also meant a brand new website.
Thankfully, we were able to save this client and I ended up working with them for many years. We learned from this experience to remove this verbiage from our contracts and clearly explain what our services entailed beforehand.
- Thomas Adams, Digital Marketing Consultant, Tech Prosperity LLC