What were you expecting?

As a customer service professional I have taken my fair share of escalated calls.  Today, the light went on and I can now definitively tell you the single reason those calls make it to me.  Customers get frustrated, angry and possibly more when their expectations are not met.  Period.  End of story.  Let me give you a few examples:

A customer calls sales and signs up.  Sales says they will pay $50 per month and they are excited until their first bill arrives for $80.  This actually happened to me with an unnamed telephone company.  Of course I was mad.  My expectations were not met.

A customer signs up with an internet service provider who raves about their reliability only to find that they are down consistently 2-3 hours per month.  Again, unmet expectations.

I have one more that hits really close to home for anyone in a call center.  A customer calls in and hears on the phone queue that they are next in line only to wait 30 minutes.  Not only are those expectations unmet but that customer is no longer your customer.

In the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey says:

“When expectations are not clear and shared, people begin to become emotionally involved and simple misunderstandings become compounded, turning into personality clashes and communication breakdowns.”

Going back to the escalated phone calls, every call I take is about expectations.  In most cases it is a prompt to clearly Communicate expectations Better to the customer to make sure everyone’s expectations are the same.

We have talked a lot about feedback in the past.  These are golden opportunities to listen, learn, improve training, improve websites and processes.  When I approach these encounters defensively, the customer usually cancels (to the entertainment of those hearing me on the phone) or complains to our CEO.  When I treat these as opportunities to listen, understand and clearly communicate, it builds trust and sometimes they turn into life long customers.  With this valuable feedback, we can train our organizations to communicate clear expectations every step of the way so customer expectations are consistently met.  If you’re like me, you’re trying to figure out the best place to begin.

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  • On my last trip out to San Diego, I rented a car. I upgraded the rental because I didn’t want a janky gas guzzler. The guy at the counter told me they’ll give me a tank of gas at the $4.30 price but if I find it cheaper elsewhere, bring in the receipt and they’ll match that price when I return the car. So, I found it cheaper and brought in the receipt. The guy I worked with originally wasn’t there and the lady who was helping me told me this isn’t possible. She said that they absolutely cannot honor this because I “signed a contract”. Ok, so I signed a contract but the guy flat out told this to me. In fact, I talked with him for about 30 minutes about every option I had. He made sure I was very clear on my understanding before I walked out the door. Now this lady is telling me otherwise? I was kindly arguing but she wasn’t budging. Finally, I signed and said “OK” with some attitude, frowned and said “Can I have my papers back now so I can catch my flight?” She then said, “Ok wait, we’ll honor it this one time.” She then adjusted my entire bill and saved me over $50. I opened up to her how I’m a customer service supervisor and I know these things are frustrating but the agent told me this information originally (why would I make this up?!) so what else was I supposed to do? We then began talking about other customer service challenges when information and expectations are proposed in one manner and not met later on down the road. The situation turned out well.

    It’s up to us as leaders to make sure our team is giving the right information to our customers up front, at the beginning. First impressions really matter!

  • Wow that’s bad. Doesn’t that just make you want to throw something? Think about what that did to internal dynamics at that company? Failure to set expectations properly also leads to finger pointing and internal frustration. I think you might have been victimized by a slimy sales guy. I always say no to those rental car upsells.

    Anyway, we’ve been in those situations and more than anything we have to quickly step into the customer’s shoes and see where they are coming from.

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