You can’t read anyone’s mind. There’s no crystal ball that will help you determine customer satisfaction before, during or after a transaction. However, with a little skill, legwork and background knowledge, you will know how to uncover customer expectations and perceptions. Knowing what they expect will help you give them what they need, which will reflect positively on your business’s reputation, as well as save time and resources.
How to Uncover Customer Expectations and Perceptions
How do you know for sure what people are imagining when they contact your business? Well, you don’t know for sure. But when you do your best and know how to uncover customer expectations and perceptions, you can try to avoid downfalls that might leave customers walking away unsatisfied.
Tip #1: Learn to identify possibly erroneous perceptions.
One of the quickest ways to lose a customer is through misunderstanding.
Let’s say, as a simple example, that a customer has a preconceived notion that she will get a free hanger with every dress that she purchases. In her case, that’s happened in the past at every store. Well one day, she goes into a new store in a different state, and the cashier does not give her a hanger because that is not what that store would normally do.
Her preconceived perception left her unhappy. But if the cashier is not accustomed to giving away the free hangers, how would he have known she would be unhappy if she did not get one?
While the situations in your business are far more complex, talking with the customers ahead of time will help. First, find out what they expect, and then it’s your turn to tell them what you will give them. If something doesn’t match up, you can either modify your processes slightly to provide them with what they want, or the customers will discover they are in the wrong place. … And that’s not always bad! In other words, they have nothing to complain about. If you’re honest about not being the ideal resource for them and maybe even suggest better resources, in a certain sense they will still walk away “satisfied customers” due to the way you treated them.
Tip #2: Learn from past mistakes.
Keep track of what future customers might be expecting due to your interactions with past customers. Make sure present customers understand what your business provides and what it does not.
Tip #3: Do your research.
In order to monitor customer perceptions, you can research or take advantage of customer surveys, customer feedback on delivered products and services, meetings with customers, market-share analysis, compliments, warranty claims and dealer reports.
Tip #4: Expect the unexpected.
Proper training and communication between you and your clients is important regarding how to uncover customer expectations and perceptions. Your clients will have had years of experience, and in some cases understand more than you do – or vice versa, of course. Either way, make sure you both have all your questions answered before a project begins.
As another example, let’s say a contractor is to build a mile-long sidewalk. The contractor knows through years of experience that situations will arise that will end up adding expenses to the original cost estimate. Let’s say, for example, that the contractor runs into an ancient underground utility line that no one knew was there.
If the client also knows these cost overruns will occur, the client can add some money to his budget for such unforeseen expenses for the project. Now, if he understands that and then some of the extra budgeted money is used, it might be disappointing but not necessarily a problem; if he did not budget that extra money, on the other hand, it could ruin the entire project and he would most definitely be an unsatisfied customer.
In other words, communication is key to avoiding such misunderstandings and to improving customers’ experiences.
Contact Trident QMS for Additional Tips
If you want more specific tips regarding how to uncover customer expectations and perceptions, let us know! We can be reached through our Trident QMS website or by phone at 520-314-4344. We will be happy to provide you with additional suggestions.