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The ultimate goal of customer service is to meet – or exceed – customer expectations.  But how can we know what every customer wants when expectations vary from customer to customer?  We could ask customers, individually or as a group, what they want.  But sometimes it’s smarter (and more economical) to anticipate what your customers want.  After all, they probably have better things to do than educate you in the basics of customer service.

Can you define the hallmarks of quality service and products?  Here are five suggestions to keep in mind.

Customers want their products and services…

Quick. Customers’ time is precious; they don’t want to waste it by having to wait.  After all, their needs exist now, and the culture we live in seldom supports the virtues of delayed gratification.  Some customers might actually incur a cost for each hour or day that your service or product is delayed.  Even customers who don’t lose money may be inconvenienced if you fail to respond quickly.

Affordable. We are a nation of bargain hunters.  However, with sophisticated customers, total cost is what they want to minimize, not just the purchase price.  They don’t want to pay a very low price initially for products that end up costing them dearly because of constant repairs.  In the same way, they won’t select inexpensive services that, dollar for dollar, don’t deliver the same value as higher priced – but higher valued – services.

Right. Customers expect that your products will perform as promised and that your services will have the result you predict.  That’s their right.  And they want quality, which means, at the very least, reliability and functionality.  They count on you to stand behind your guarantees.  Flawed products and services are never acceptable, no matter how quickly delivered or cheap the price.

Convenient. Customers don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get your product or service.  They’re not happy about filling out long forms, don’t appreciate being bounced around from one employee to another, would rather not have to travel across town, and they can’t afford to earn a Ph.D. just to use your product or service effectively.  It’s easier than you think to make it easy for your customers.  (Sometimes this just means doing less, rather than more.)

Personalized. These days many customers are willing to pay a little more to receive better attention and more personalized service.  They like having their self-esteem bolstered by a hotel desk clerk who remembers their name.  They enjoy the ability to revise the standard plans of a home being built for them.  They see value in custom-fitted clothing, and they’ll pay more to avoid walking those extra steps from a remote parking lot.  Customers are individuals, so what works for one may not work for another.  Your products or services are not personalized if they don’t reflect that individuality.  So be prepared to offer choices.

There they are:  Five hallmarks of quality service and products.  Your own ideas may differ slightly, but unless they express the same basic principles, you might want to take a closer look at your current policies to ensure that you provide products and services that are – Quick, Affordable, Right, Convenient, and Personalized.

Otherwise, your customers might just start shopping around – and never come back!


Excerpted from the Sandler training program Quality Service:  Defining It, Building It, and Sustaining It, ©1998 by Sam Deep.  All rights reserved. 

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