Exceeding Your Customer’s Needs and Expectations Every Time

heather-for-mag.jpgThe following post was written by Fairy Godmother Heather Ledeboer mom of two and owner of Mom 4 Life, a website that offers 100% mom invented products for mothers and babies. She is passionate about customer service and strives to implement above average service to everyone she comes into contact with.

Businesses don’t want you! Well, most businesses don’t. Sure, they want your money, they will take your orders and they would love your referrals, but they don’t want YOU. Taking care of you and your needs as a customer beyond your order involves time, follow up, research and money. What takes a business from good to great is an investment in you, their customer. It is my opinion that it is this extra stretch of time and effort that often takes the true success stories in business and makes them something worth talking about.

So how do you become one of the exceptions in business and push yourself beyond your competitors? In concept, it is simple: focus on meeting and exceeding your customers’ needs. In practice, it takes work. Let’s take a closer look at how you can create something worth talking about in your business by focusing on the anacronym of Y.O.U.

“Y”=Your customer is your life-blood. Let’s face it, without customers you would be done, right? Do your customers know that? They should! Think of ways to tell them how important they are. Everyone likes to feel important, appreciated and needed; here are some examples of ways that you can make sure your customers know they are appreciated:
On the phone: After they call for information or to place an order or to complain about a problem, always end the call with your appreciation for their business and support.
With their order: Include a note of thanks and an offer to contact you if there is anything more you can do to help.
On your website or in your store: Post a visual sign thanking them for their business.
With follow-up: Provide a follow up call or send a postcard or email shortly after they give you their business thanking them.

“O”=Others decide how good you are. Sure you love your company and are convinced that you offer the best service or products. However, people don’t care nearly as much about what you think of your business as what their friends have to say about it. Focus on each and every customer, viewing them as a friend and working to gain their satisfaction and support. Ask them for feedback and implement their suggestions. If you get lazy in this area it will show. Letting just a few unhappy customers leave your store can quickly unravel all that you have worked to build up in the way of a good reputation. This is where the hard, consistent work of making every customer a satisfied one will come to reward you.

“U”=Until you sacrifice, you will not succeed. I believe that true customer service is really about sacrifice. You must be willing to sacrifice in a few key areas:

Time: It takes time to respond to each email, phone call or complaint personally, promptly and with sincerity! Do it! Your customers will notice the difference and appreciate your efforts. Go out of your way to exceed their expectations. If you don’t have the product they need, help them find it from someone else. If they don’t understand something, offer to walk them through it. If they need something quickly, offer more than one option to get it to them on time. This kind of sacrifice will leave an indelible mark in their minds and over time can create a fierce loyalty to your company.

Money: You must be willing to sacrifice some of your immediate profits to make customers happy. Offer a refund if they are not satisfied, a discount if you make a mistake and give gift certificates toward future orders to keep them coming back for more. The profits you will lose by doing this is simply an investment in the long term health and growth of your business. If you are trying to make each dollar count, wait to upgrade your printer or fax machine. Customer service is NOT the area to pinch pennies.

The beauty of offering great customer service is that you have a built-in guide to help you help yourself! I encourage you to take some time to view your business from an outsider’s perspective. View yourself as the customer and meticulously scrutinize each area of your experience as a customer with your business. Look for ways to improve what you already have in place and implement things that you are currently overlooking. I am convinced that if you truly focus on the concepts of Y.O.U., everyone will benefit and you will have a business that YOU would want to support!

Heather Ledeboer, Mom4Life, Heather Ledeboer is passionate about helping other moms succeed in business. Her passion is directed at finding mom invented products (such as LilyPadz breast pads, WubbaNub plush toy pacifiers, Hooter Hider nursing covers, and  BabyLegs leg warmers) and offering them on her website, http://www.mom4life.com with free shipping to all US locations. She also enjoys writing on the topic of business and has a particular pet peeve about providing excellent customer service. Twitter @mom4lifecom

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12 Responses to “Exceeding Your Customer’s Needs and Expectations Every Time”

  1. Deborah Gardner One Heart Bulgaria on July 26th, 2007 8:19 am

    I personally know that Heather practices what she teaches.
    Just a few days ago I was on her site looking for some specialty items when I decided to email Heather about a concern and a question I had. Within the 1/2 hour, I had a detailed response from her, in fact, VERY detailed and I know it took her quite a bit of time to respond like that. In addition, she gave me an online code for a coupon to use when ordering. THAT’S great customer service! Thanks Heather!

  2. startupprincess on July 26th, 2007 2:37 pm

    That’s wonderful, Deborah–thanks for sharing. Way to go Heather!

  3. Jamie Dadant on July 26th, 2007 2:40 pm

    It was so ironic to read this post today. I just received a complaint from a customer who has not received her order (the item was shipped and she should have already received it). I responsded right away and tried to be as apologetic as I could. However, after reading Heather’s post it made me think that once we get the situation resolved, I should follow up with a coupon code or gift certificate. Thanks Heather for the great advice, you are truly a pro at what you do.

    Jamie
    Mom and Owner, http://www.craftybabies.com

  4. Heather Ledeboer on July 26th, 2007 3:13 pm

    Thank you ladies for your kind and encouraging words! I am so thrilled you found the article useful, it was fun to write.

  5. Debbie Savage on July 28th, 2007 7:30 am

    Wow! What GREAT words of advice. I have purchased several items from Heather and am just simply impressed by the whole process of customer service. From the moment I enter the site to the order confirmation…I can honestly say she does have the customer in mind. :)

    Her work ethics and heart behind her business thrills me and inspires me to become a better business woman….to give my heart to my customers in the same way.

    I wish Heather was much closer in proximity but now that she is in ID and I can take advantages of greater savings (no CA Sales Tax! :).

    I regularly check her site for sales and new products and know exactly what to expect. It is flawless!

    Keep it up GIRL!

    Best,
    Debbie Savage
    Baby Emi Jewelry

  6. startupprincess on July 28th, 2007 12:11 pm

    Thanks Start Up Princess Debbie for your kind words about Heather. ;)

  7. Teresa Morrow on July 29th, 2007 9:43 pm

    Heather,
    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article on one of the most important if not the most important part of being in business, customer service.
    I just had a not so great experience as a customer and I was surprised at how it didn’t seem to matter that I was unhappy with the service but that I didn’t follow up enough with them about what needed to be done (even though I had sent them messages and a list about what needed to be done). I didn’t know the customer needed to follow around the service provider about what they should do when they offered their services to me? Anyway, then when I asked for a refund for other services that were not begun yet, I was told also in that respect, “I am sorry, I don’t offer refunds”. Now, this didn’t allow me to have a great experience with this company and I am out of money that I spent to get things done that weren’t done properly and not in a timely manner. Lesson learned.
    And a word of advice as well….be sure to have everything down in writing so nothing can be left to “interpretation”.

    Thanks again for this great article Heather. It is always a great reminder to think about how the experience we are giving to our customers.

  8. startupprincess on July 29th, 2007 11:55 pm

    thank you for sharing, Teresa! great to see you here!

  9. Heather Ledeboer on July 31st, 2007 9:47 am

    Thank you Debbie and Teresa for your kind comments!:)

  10. Jean on December 28th, 2007 6:55 pm

    I love this! I have kids 20 & 10. I am very lucky that both are my biggest fans in starting my business – All Moms Go To Heaven. They both are very much involved in many aspects of what I am doing. What I have told them both frequently is that based on example from most retailers they do not even have any idea what great or even good customer service is. I think maybe it has to do with our 24/7 society, as well as big box stores being the norm – somewhere the idea of taking pride/and care of your customers has gotten lost into “it’s not my problemville”, “just let it slide by”. I really think that many do not know what good or great customer service is all about because they have never experience it. And I tell my kids that they are missing out on the sweetness of life – they should expect the best from everyone, as well as what they give to whatever they are doing. I sort of get disappointed when I see how sloppy our society has become – I feel that many do not know any better. Thanks for the awesome post as a reminder to us all not to settle for being mediorcre!

  11. Sarah Bray on September 29th, 2008 10:20 am

    Totally missed this post (where have I been??) but it is so inspiring! Must tape on computer. :)

    Sarah Brays last blog post…Designs that didn’t work

  12. Sharon Wilson on October 24th, 2008 7:34 pm

    Great insight on this Heather – I completely agree with you! Too often these are principles that those of us in business can forget.

    Sharon Wilsons last blog post…What Are the Tools You Can Use in Applying Spiritual Business Principles to Managing Worry?

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