Have you ever had to call your cell phone company about some issue with your phone? Or perhaps your TV wasn't working quite right, so you rang your cable company, and asked for a fix?

We've all been in this kind of situation before, and it's rarely a fun experience. I recently had to call customer support for an online service, and I found myself as a business owner and professional evaluating the performance of the agent on the other end.

Call me judgmental, call me overbearing, or call me just plain crazy, but I'm obsessed with making sure my customers' needs are always met. Why? Because it's incredibly important by every measure of business success!

In fact, 89% of customers turn elsewhere if they experience bad customer service (myself included). For some businesses, customer service seems an afterthought. In reality, it should be a core concern of every business's operations.

What are the unstated concerns of a customer who is looking for service from your company? What do they want? What do they need? Here are their expectations:

1. I expect to deal with someone nice.

The most basic customer need of all is to interact with someone who's friendly. The tone should always be warm and cheery, but that's hard to maintain if employees are unhappy.

2. I need you to understand where I'm coming from.

Customers need to feel that I appreciate and sympathize with their feelings and problems. Putting myself in the customer's shoes without judgment leads to better relationships and faster problem resolution.

3. I want to be treated fairly.

Any customer will become offended or annoyed if they feel I'm regarding them with any sort of bias or stereotyping. 70% of the buying experience depends on how customers feel they are treated. Rather than making assumptions or talking down to anyone, I'm obligated to treat every customer with the same respect and courtesy.

4. I need to know that I have some influence.

Customers need to feel their needs matter and that their business is important enough to get them results. I need to present them with reasonable, personalized solutions, not company policies or scripted responses.

5. I want to understand what my options are.

A customer looking for certain services or problem resolution needs to know that they have options, and are not bound by company rules to any specific actions. If there's more than one way to handle the issue, it's best that I let the customer know, and let them make the choice.

6. I'm going to need more information.

Customers want to be informed of what they are entitled to with their purchase. They may be resentful or feel cheated if I leave anything out. As the company leader, I need to ensure prospects get their answers, and my staff does their homework.

7. I don't like to be kept waiting.

45% of US consumers disconnect if they aren't helped promptly. To be kept waiting is demeaning and frustrating, especially if the customer paid good money and ended up with problems. By leaving them on hold or waiting on a response we only increase their frustration, so I take every measure to ensure I don't have to leave them hanging.

8. I don't want to be wasting my time.

My customers should feel from start to finish that I value their business and their feedback, since I can learn from failures. For the best customer experience, they should also feel that I have been of value to them, so I try to stay focused on delivering positive outcomes.

9. I'm expecting your help.

I expect staff to take full responsibility for every interaction that they initiate or have an impact on, even if they're obliged for whatever reason to hand it off to someone else. 26% of consumers say they've dealt with multiple agents with no resolution to their problem. My customers expect me to follow through and see that their needs are satisfied.

10. I expect you to have everything ready for me.

In order to avoid any hint of incompetence or lack of commitment, I have to appear with all the materials I need before speaking to a client, and I never ask questions that I could have found out for myself.

11. You should be on my side.

Customers risk money, reputations, and even careers by doing business with my organization. Branded conversations are useful, but customers need to feel that I'm working in their best interests, not pursuing an agenda.

12. I need simple explanations.

Customers shouldn't be overwhelmed with information and shouldn't feel like they're lost. I need to remind myself to slow down and express myself in clear, simple language, not technical jargon- keeping it simple is important.

13. I expect to get what I paid for.

Not just selling, but consistently and accurately delivering, is an important part of sustaining business. Failure to meet my promises tells customers I'm not trustworthy.

14. I need you to be one of the mavericks.

Customers want real, human interaction, not robotic responses and bureaucracy. I want to give the impression that they and their predicaments are unique, and I'm willing and inspired to go above and beyond to do whatever it takes to resolve the problem.

15. I need you to anticipate my needs.

Yes, some customers expect me to be a mind reader, or they don't really know what the problem is or even the right questions to ask. Really listening to what they say, and drawing on my own experience, helps me to understand what they need even when they can't - or won't - express it.

Conclusion

Unscrupulous pricing, hackers, and customer abandonment are taking their toll on consumer confidence, especially on the Internet. 55% of consumers would pay more for a better buying experience. And alternatives are a click away.

How we interact with customers is essential to gaining repeat business. It's 6-7 times more costly to gain new customers. Not only meeting but exceeding customer expectations is what we should strive for. By understanding these fundamental customer concerns before you even start your marketing campaigns, positive experiences become much easier.

Will your customers be returning to your business?

Published on: Oct 20, 2016