Many customers aren't able to articulate their expectations clearly and, as a result, end up disappointed with the service they receive. Ripon Community Printers, a 350-employee company, located in Ripon, Wis., uncovers hidden expectations by interviewing new customers about their experiences with previous service providers. Customers are asked to provide a sample of their previous printer's work and comment on its quality. A Ripon customer-service representative reviews the sample with the customer to learn what is and is not acceptable.

"Knowing what customers want as early as possible is key in getting the job done right," says Tom Montag, customer-service manager. Understanding what they weren't pleased with in the past reveals their true expectations. "Providing great service means no surprises for you or your customers when the job is done," Montag says.

Looking for hidden expectations has paid off. Customer surveys show that 96.1% of customers feel Ripon's services meet or exceed their needs, and 76.5% feel the service is better than that of previous print vendors.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing