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How to meet (and exceed) customer expectations

Exceed customer expectations

Do you remember the last time a business exceeded your expectations?

Most don't.

According to Acquia, 66% of customers cannot remember the the last time a brand exceeded their expectations!

Here's the thing:

Customer expectations are difficult to meet.

The higher they are, the less likely you are to exceed them.

So, how do you meet and exceed customer expectations?

The SuperOffice blog has mentioned it on a few occasions - The figures that show 80% of companies believe they are providing superior customer service, while only 8% of their clients agree with them.

Contrary to what we would think, a BBC article discussed how some customers prefer rude and abrasive service - With one hotel in Liverpool, England seeing a 20% rise in bookings after a documentary aired showing their unpleasant staff.

It’s important to note, however, that meeting customer expectations is crucial if you want to see your business soar. 

Did you know that 72% of customers are likely to spread the word about a positive experience to six or more people? A satisfied customer is a powerful marketing tool, and word-of-mouth is one of the most effective forms of advertising.

So, are you confused about what your customers really want? Looking to improve your brand's reputation and attract new leads?

5 ways to exceed expectations

We will now cover the 5 main areas where most companies go wrong and discuss how to exceed customer expectations and provide examples of good customer service and how to improve them.

1. Quality first, speed second

We all like our issues to be resolved efficiently when contacting a company, but what makes us use them again and again? There is only one answer. The quality of the service!

According to RightNow's Customer Experience Impact study, at 82% the top reason customers would stop using a business was rude and incompetent staff. This was 18% more than their issue not being resolved swiftly.

Why do customers leave a company?

Despite this most businesses still use speed as their main measure of customer service quality. Europe's biggest budget airline Ryanair plays a recorded message stating how they arrive on time more than any other airline in Europe whenever arriving on schedule.

However some companies have taken the findings on board and seen great success. Derek Sivers, the founder of CDBaby, asked all his employees to always take a little longer on calls with customers. He later sold the business for $22 million.

Here is one example of how taking a little bit of extra time had a massive effect on one man's life.

Another great and heartwarming  example is from Kerry Drake, who was flying with United Airlines on his way to see his mother in her final hours. After his first flight was delayed he broke down but, when the stewards on board realized the reason, the captain was able to radio ahead and hold his connecting flight until he arrived. He managed to spend a few hours with his mother before she died.

Airlines rank each other on their ability to be on time, but this kind of story and the fact it was global news show that customers see quality of service above any other measure.

Advice: Remove time as a measure of quality and concentrate on getting your service right. Don’t ever make a customer feel rushed.

2. Connect with your customers

Now you have a little more time. What do you do with it?

In 2021, it’s no longer enough to be friendly and efficient in solving customer inquiries. You have to connect with them too.

Pearl Weaver, who is 89 years young, certainly does that. Not only is she an inspiration in working longevity, but also in how to connect with customers.

When anybody enters the Arby’s where she works, they are greeted to a booming smile, friendly welcome and shaking pom-poms.

Her manager said “If she is off for a week, people ask where she is”!

Just how many pensioners have you seen waving pom-poms working in fast food restaurants?

That is how you exceed customer expectations!

But how can you connect with customers when you communicate through email or web chat?

Here is a great example.

Jill, a representative for online men’s clothing store Jack Threads received an instant message from a man who had found a hole in a shirt he had bought from them. He had not worn the shirt yet as he was hoping to fit in it after losing some weight. Jill firstly congratulated the client on losing weight, before asking for more information to help him return the shirt.

The customer, Tony then went on to explain he was training for a marathon.

exceeding expectations through great customer service

Why did this conversation also go viral? It seems very simple right? But with so many companies so fixated on solving customer queries. Many have actually forgotten to connect with them.

Advice: Ditch the script. Giving your employees more freedom makes them happier and more likely to connect with clients.

3. Go the extra mile

Think about the best customer experience you have ever had. I imagine it involved a company or representative doing far more than what was expected of them.

The team at Jimyz Automotives in Streetsboro, Ohio simply provide their clients with a handwritten thank you note.

This not only helps to build your reputation and attract business, it also keeps customers loyal. When this photo was posted online, one of the responses was “I used to live in Streetsboro and I know exactly who that is. He’s a good man, stay with him!”.

This kind of idea keeps regular customers loyal and makes your business the one they recommend to friends and family.

From time to time a customer will give you the opportunity to provide them with a really memorable service. Like our next example.

When a young Ritz customer left his beloved Joshie the Giraffe toy at the hotel, all his father could do was say that he had stayed on vacation a little longer. The father Chris Hurn emailed the Ritz to explain the situation. They responded by not only sending the beloved toy home, but by creating a photo booklet showing everything Joshie had done during his extra stay.

If a hotel had done that for your child, would you stay anywhere else?

Great Customer Service

Advice: Try to think of something memorable you can do for every customer. Also if you ever get an opportunity to do more, then do it.

4. Create personalized interactions

In terms of customer service, personalization is a powerful tool.

Did you know that 80% of customers prefer to do business with companies who cater their experiences specifically to them?

You can establish trust and forge closer bonds with your clients if you make an effort to customize your interactions with them.

Wouldn't it make you feel unique if a company you dealt with remembered your name, your preferences, or the effort it took to learn about your requirements?

Although it's a modest gesture, it has a significant effect.

Try calling your clients by their first names, keeping in mind what they enjoy and dislike, and spending time learning about their particular requirements. Your clients will enjoy it, and as a result, your business will benefit.

5. Provide proactive support

Being proactive in your customer service approach means anticipating your customers' needs, checking in regularly, and addressing potential issues before they escalate. 

This not only shows your customers that you care about their experience, but it also helps to build trust and demonstrates your commitment to providing exceptional service. It’s important to take the lead and surprise your customers with your proactive approach to customer service. 

They'll appreciate the extra effort, and it might just set you apart from the competition.


Customer service today is not about telling people how great you are and giving figures to prove it. It’s about creating memorable experiences that do the talking for you.

All you need to remember is to:

  • Take your time
  • Connect with the customer
  • Do more than they would expect
  • Create personalized interactions
  • Provide proactive support

Providing great customer service does not have to cost you the Earth either. Out of all the examples provided only one gift card was given. In fact, some companies who have excelled in customer service have even managed to remove their advertising departments entirely.

When you also consider 85% of clients would actually be willing to pay up to 25% more to get better service. Why would you be doing anything else?

Go above and beyond customer expectations and download seven free email templates for customer service!

Customers also ask

What are the specific challenges businesses face when trying to exceed customer expectations, and how can these be overcome?

Businesses trying to exceed customer expectations often face challenges like accurately identifying those expectations and managing resource allocation effectively. Overcoming these involves close engagement with customers for feedback, utilizing data analytics for insights, and prioritizing efforts that directly enhance customer satisfaction.

How can small businesses with limited resources implement these strategies to exceed customer expectations?

Small businesses can exceed expectations by focusing on personalized service, leveraging social media for direct communication, and creating memorable customer experiences. Strategic partnerships can also extend their capability to deliver beyond expectations.

Can exceeding customer expectations have any negative implications, and how can businesses navigate these?

Exceeding expectations might set the bar high for future interactions, potentially straining resources. Businesses should balance exceeding expectations with sustainable practices, ensuring promises align with what can be consistently delivered to avoid setting unrealistic future expectations.

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