Should We Try to Exceed Customer Expectations?

Happy CustomerYesterday someone told me there’s no point in trying to exceed customer expectations, because once you do, the bar is raised and the exception becomes the norm. It creates a never ending spiral upward. All I can say, is “poppycock” (yes, people used to say “poppycock,” probably the same folks who used to say “balderdash”). Anyway, you get my point.

Luxury service is all about exceeding customer expectations. Now admittedly, most of what I write in this blog is devoted to just that tenet (see “Moving Beyond Customer Service to Customer Experience”). While I could write yet another post to reinforce my opinion and restate what I’ve already expounded upon in other posts, I’ve run across an article on the company website Albatross Global Solutions that perfectly summarizes what I’d like to say: “Beyond Expectations: The Making of an Empowered Sales Force.” (Keep in mind that Albatross Global Solutions sell services to improve retail performance and increase customer satisfaction, so they have a vested interested in the topic).

The author recognizes the importance of training your sales team to deliver a luxury customer experience: “The purpose of training is to transform some essential components of good service – a friendly offer of assistance, a properly detailed product description – into instincts.  A good sales associate should know their brand’s customer service policy inside and out, and be able to enact it smoothly and confidently.  This is what training can achieve.” But then the author goes one step further and states that while training is important and essential, it is only a foundation; and those who believe the development of their sales force begins and ends with training miss the boat (or luxury liner in this case). The critical factor is ensuring your sales force is empowered to provide personalized service.

Referring to a Business Week profile of a Long Island mall, Americana Manhasset, the author outlines how empowered sales associates help this premier shopping destination create a luxury experience found nowhere else:

  1. Empowered sales associates know not only your brand and products, but also what’s available in the competitive marketplace
  2. Empowered sales associates understand the industry, relevant technology, and customer demographics.
  3. Empowered sales associates speak the language of affluence (see also “Do Your Salespeople Really Understand the Luxury Perspective?”)

The well-trained and empowered sales associate can think beyond store policy to sense what is best for the customer, and in turn, what is best for the business. Does this mean we run the danger of turning the remarkable into the routine? Will every customer expect a glass of champagne as they shop? Here’s what the Albatross Global Solutions author has to say:

For every brand, at some point, there is a limit to how much added value they can get from such tangible bonuses. But even if there comes a time when all the stores are gilded to the rafters and every conceivable perk has been doled out a thousand times over, when customers are all fully jaded to every indulgence, an empowered sales associate will still be able go beyond expectations- with nothing more expensive than a sympathetic ear, excellent taste, and a personal touch.

And I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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