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The Role of Communication in Managing Expectations for Business Owners

Discover how effective communication can help you build strong relationships with customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Managing the expectations of customers is the act of communicating the kind of actions a business can take when it comes to accommodating customers. Also known as setting expectations or boundaries that define the limits of the business, how far it can go to resolve an issue, and when no means no.

The key to managing expectations is knowing how far to go in terms of accommodating a customer's need to get satisfaction with their purchase.

Businesses exist to deliver services and goods to customers, but they also exist to turn a profit for their continued existence.

It's a delicate balance of managing expectations to keep customers satisfied and returning in the future versus the customer's unrealistic expectations that a business should suffer losses to keep customers happy.

Customers develop their own high expectations of what they expect a business should provide in terms of customer service. This tends to happen when a business isn't clear about how far it's willing to go when it comes to meeting these unwritten customer expectations.

It's important for a business to avoid unpleasant interactions with customers, but it's not always possible. That's why it's important to set clear expectations in terms of what your business will do to accommodate a customer's needs while keeping an eye on the bigger picture.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of setting personal expectations, understanding how customers form their own expectations, and why you need to teach your employees the art of clearly and calmly communicating the customer service rules to the customer.

Why managing expectations is vital for business success

To manage expectations is to set a healthy boundary between you and your customers. Your customer base has preconceived ideas of how your business operates that are based on prior experience, what they see in advertising materials, and word-of-mouth communications from friends and family.

The customer also develops different expectations for different industries, and they're also aware that customer service rules change over time. This is why it's important to have a communication strategy for your staff as they deal with unrealistic expectations from customers.

Having clear, defined customer service rules not only helps set expectations, it also makes the business appear honest and transparent in its dealings with customers. This goes towards reducing friction between your customers and employees, improves customer loyalty, and reduces the potential for arguments that generate bad feelings between all who are involved.

Understanding the importance of managing expectations

Managing expectations results in an improved customer journey and perception of your business.

In general, people form their expectations of a business before they make an initial engagement and carry those expectations with them as they interact with the owner or employees of the business. However, these expectations aren't always the right ones as the customer has no actual experience with how the business operates.

Setting expectations gives the customer a solid frame of reference for what they can expect the business to do or provide.

Improved customer satisfaction

Customers appreciate it when a business is upfront with them about the limits of how far the business will go to satisfy their expectations.

They understand that your business will make an effort to fix an issue in a satisfactory way, but they can't expect you or your staff to go beyond a certain point. Setting a limit on effort tells the customer that the business will do what it can within reason and assures the customer that their needs will be met.

Enhanced reputation

A business gets an enhanced reputation among its customer base when it makes an attempt at fixing a problem, even when the customer isn't completely satisfied with the results.

Making the effort to find a resolution can go a long way towards pleasing a customer, despite a failure to completely resolve an issue. The customer is much more likely to post or talk about their experience in a positive way and boost the reputation of your business.

Greater efficiency

Taking the time to set clear expectations with customers results in less time spent on conflict resolution and more time spent on making sales. The customer understands what your business is willing to do in terms of righting a wrong and making them feel heard. They're less likely to spend time arguing and allow you to provide a resolution in less time.

Better resource allocation

Customer experience automation tools help you find areas where customer service experience is lacking. Customers who perceive a lack of quality customer care can result in the creation of conflicts between you and the customer.

Using these tools helps you identify the best resource for the task at hand, whether it's an employee with a special skill or if it's time to spend money on improving a customer service process. Less time is spent on finding an appropriate solution, and there's less disruption of workflows.

Increased revenue

Setting customer expectations, then exceeding them has the effect of creating and reinforcing their feelings of loyalty toward your business. They're very likely to return to your business to spend more money with you because they felt they received excellent value.

In turn, a happy customer tells others about their positive experience and encourages them to visit your business so they, too, can experience your quality customer service.

The link between managing expectations and customer satisfaction

Setting expectations for customers helps improve their satisfaction with your business. The customer gains clarity in regards to the lengths that you'll go to satisfy their expectations, but they also know that there's a limit to what they can expect.

Essentially, they understand the guidelines for the type of service that's offered, how returns are handled, and the type of resolution they'll receive in the event they encounter an issue.

The end result is one of the customers knowing what's going to happen when they make a purchase, and what happens if they run into a problem and return to your business for a resolution.

One example of how to manage expectations and customer satisfaction is the interaction between a pharmacist and a customer.

As a general rule, a customer can expect the pharmacist or pharmacy assistant to explain the ways in which to best take the medication. They're also given the option to talk about the medication with the pharmacist and ask any questions before they take a pill.

The result is one of the pharmacists setting healthy expectations for the customer, while the customer has a better understanding of their medication and how it will affect them.

Strategies to manage expectations successfully

Managing expectations is a form of proactive customer service in that you provide clear and thorough communications with your customer during your interactions.

You can use different communication models to deliver your message as well as allow your customer's voice to be heard.

This mitigates unrealistic expectations and creates healthy expectations for both the customer and business during the sale and post-sale.

Define clear and realistic expectations

Defining the parameters that surround your product or service before the customer commits to the purchase makes it easy for you to set a boundary with the customer.

Start by making them aware of the potential issues of your product or service, talk about the experiences of previous customers and their outcomes, and make sure to let the customer know about an issue that's inherent to the product. This lets the customer know that they're getting a product or service that works as intended, but not necessarily in a way they expect.

Communicate effectively with customers

Effective communication is your strongest tool when it comes to managing customer expectations. That means using all avenues of communication, from written to spoken words and backing up the spoken word with written guidelines.

Always use a firm but friendly voice and tone in your customer communications, as they're more likely to listen and respond in a reasonable manner.

Be transparent about limitations and constraints

Sometimes a customer has a predefined idea of how a product performs or what's included during a type of service and may try to argue with you about what you delivered versus what they expected.

This can be avoided by discussing the limits and constraints of the product or service before money changes hands.

Set and manage customer expectations throughout the customer journey

The customer journey begins the moment they land on your website or walk through your door.

The methods in which you manage customer expectations vary from industry to industry, but in general, you should be proactive with the customer and make the effort to explain how your good or service works.

Start by being upfront and clear about the terms of service, informing your customer of common issues other customers have experienced with your service or product, and following up with them after a sale.

This serves to make the customer feel supported by the business from start to finish, and makes the customer feel good about their decision to buy from you.

The role of employee management in managing expectations

Employees are your front line between perceived customer expectations and the actual customer service that is provided by your business.

Customers seek out employees for the resolution of their problems when an owner isn't available. In order to provide excellent customer service, your employees need to be empowered to speak on behalf of the business and have some autonomy in making decisions.

Training your employees to communicate with customers in a calm and rational fashion while giving them some decision-making authority helps improve the reputation of your business, improve sales, and generate customer loyalty.

At Mailchimp, we understand the importance of managing customer expectations and providing the best possible customer experience. Mailchimp offers this and more to help your business develop healthy relationships with its customers and avoid the problems that come from a lack of managing customer expectations.

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