Customers Key - customer service tipsThe other day, I found a video online and it made me think of the customer expectations. Despite the fact that most are well aware that “you get what you pay for,” some customers truly expect the world for pennies on the dollar. What’s a business owner to do with that? Today, I’m going to share with you a few customer service tips to manage customer expectations.

The Iron Triangle

The Iron Triangle refers to the three variables (time, scope, cost) in completing a project. You may have heard it presented as something like this: You can have it fast, good, or cheap, but not all three at once. Pick two.

Time = Fast

Sometimes it seems like customer needs their products or services yesterday. It’s amazing how a customer can procrastinate for days, weeks, months, then find themselves standing in front you with an emergency situation that needs to be resolved immediately. How do you explain to them that their time constraints have consequences? Well, this brings me to the video, I mentioned earlier.

Every time I see this video, I crack up laughing. What’s great about this video is the artist even went over the allocated time. It really represents how time affects quality. This video deserves to be converted into a business poster.

When customers come to you with tight deadlines, it means A) you have to put in longer hours, B) put more workers on the project, C) reschedule other task or customers and/or D) sacrifice quality, which means your reputation is on the line.

How do you handle a customer who expects you to beat the clock?

Customer Service Tips: First, be open and honest about time estimates. If the customer wants the 10-minute spiderman, he’s not going to get it in 10 seconds, regardless of how many people or money you throw at it. Also, don’t underestimate. It’s better to deliver ahead of schedule than to leave a disappointed customer waiting. Finally, if you’re able to make arrangements to deliver fast with quality, request fair compensation.

Scope = Good

The scope of a project refers to the specifications. Exactly what will the end product be? In the above video, the end product was a picture of Spiderman. The scope of the work also affects the quality. Forget about the time put into the drawings for a second. In the first example, you see the work starts with a plan, as the artist sketches out the project. He takes time to fill in details and adds shading. There’s even a hint of a background.

The scope of the first example might be to put the customer’s vision to paper… a well put together draft. The second example is far less detailed. It might even be considered a first prototype. The last example… hmmm. Sometimes it comes down to who you hire. Are you hiring an expert who cares about the work she puts forth or an amateur?

Customer Service Tips: Be clear what the scope of work entails. Lay it all out for your customers. Also, make sure you understand what the customer expects, wants, and needs. Remember, sometimes there’s a difference between what the customer wants and expects and what the customer truly needs. It’s up to you, as a vendor, to get deep inside your customers’ heads and deliver a product/service that truly satisfies them.

Cost = Cheap

Unhappy man giving away money - Customer service tipsThere aren’t a lot of individuals who enjoy overpaying for anything. I know I mention cheap. However, your motto doesn’t have to be cheap. Really, most customers are looking to get their money’s worth. If you they get a bit more, that’s icing on the cake.

Here’s an example. I came across a kiosk the other day that designed 3D crystals. I thought to myself, that’d make a cool gift. It even had a sale going on: 2 3D keychains for $45. Wow! I thought. That’s cheap. In fact, I would have gladly paid $45 for just one and thought I’d still have gotten a great value. I’d provide the photos and they’d deliver my products in about a week. To my disappointment, I didn’t receive a 3D crystal like the ones presented at the kiosk. Instead, I received a crystal with a 2D (flat) image etched in the center. Rather than becoming a returning customer who thinks of them as an alternative to family holiday cards, I became a one-time customer who realized the deal was too good to be true.

Something to note about my experience. I would have paid more. Though I was excited about getting something cheap, I would have happily paid more. However, I also had an expectation of quality. Remember that customers understand value. They know what’s a good deal. However, many have been burnt so many times, they’re also lacking in trust.

Customer Service Tips: Don’t underprice yourself and make up your expenses by offering shoddy products. If you do offer a product or service as a loss leader, make it clear price is not your normal fees. It’s better to build trust by giving customers a fair value than to lose a potential returning customer. Or worse, have that lost customer spread the word about how much they disliked your business.

Wrapping up Customer Service Tips

The Iron Triangle - Customer Service Tips

In a lot of cases, transparency is key. For example, have clearly posted fees for extra services, like accelerated delivery. Have contracts that include what’s expected of you as the business and for the customer. Don’t promise the world. In fact, it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver, if you can. Know your abilities. If you can’t deliver, don’t give the customer lip service just to win their business. It won’t fair well when you can’t make good. Finally, this goes without saying, never pull a bait and switch on your customers. Deliver what you present. Better yet, go beyond their expectations. But never, ever serve an inferior product or service to the one you’ve presented to your customer.

For more thoughts on providing customer service, check out this articles: Cultivating Good Customer Service Skills