How do customers get unrealistic expectations? Sometimes they just dream up an expectation because they don’t know any better. Maybe they’ve never worked with your type of service before. Maybe they saw an advertisement that was big on promises and short on delivery details. Maybe they got their expectations from their experience with a competitor.
Most of these sources of unrealistic expectations are not controllable. But there is one source that is controllable – the 1-off.
A 1-off is simply an experience they had with you or a member of your company that was a “1 time only exception to the rule.” They got special treatment that they – frankly – should not have gotten. Now they expect that treatment every time. Their expectation is now unrealistic, so in the future they will ask you or your co-worker for something you can’t deliver.
“They did this in an hour for me last time. The rep did this for me last time. Bob said I didn’t have to complete that paperwork last time. Bonnie waived that policy last time. It didn’t cost me anything last time.”
While these 1-offs are great for defusing (or outright avoiding) a conversation with an irate customer, the long-term effect is setting yourself or co-worker up for failure in a future discussion with that same customer – or the 5 friends they bragged to about their special treatment.
Believe me – I’m not saying to NOT treat customers special (my apologies to those of you who hate double-negatives). I think we need to treat all customers as unique and special. What I am saying is treat them special with your attitude, your effort, your creativity, your focus, and your willingness to go above and beyond.
Just don’t let the special treatment mean that you’re creating an unrealistic expectation of what your co-worker is allowed to do the next time that customer contacts your business.
Avoid the 1-offs.
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