As a business, you are responsible for setting the customers expectations. We commonly see two basic theories or ideas on how setting customer expectations should be done.
1. "Under promise, over deliver" - Businesses set expectations and provide a little "wiggle room" to accomplish the expectation of the customer. Primarily this in the timing that a service or product will be delivered. For example; you are remodeling a client's bathroom and you know from past experience it will take 3 days. You tell the customer to expect 4 days. The extra day allows some room in the event you encounter problems and if you finish early, then the customer is happy in most cases (see #2).
2. "Establish expectations with caveats" - Establishing expectations with "qualifiers" such as; "Unless we run into problems", "Normal services take three days if no problems are encountered." Establishing caveats is similar to the first theory, or similar to a disclaimer. This theory is important when working in areas that have tight schedules. There may be other work that must be scheduled. In the event you finish early, the client might be upset that they were not able to use the extra day to complete additional work.
The theory or concept you choose will ultimately depend on the specific type of service or product you are providing your client. It is not uncommon to run into problems with either. Weather in other parts of the world may delay delivery of materials, employee's get sick and this can disrupt your work schedules, or you encounter delays because the client causes a change.
Suggestions when are unable to meet the client's expectations:
1. Inform them as soon as possible - Notifying the customer is critical first step, even if you are exploring alternatives to keep you on schedule. This is really important when the client's schedule is closely tied to the completion of your work. Keeping them informed allows them to make decisions to accomplish their goals.
2. Identify alternatives if there are any available - Maybe there is an alternate material that can be used in place of one where delivery is delayed, or you can re-schedule the work for another time. In really critical circumstances, you may explore subcontracting with another business to provide the service or products. Work arounds are another alternative. Consider the bathroom remodel example: Instead of installing the original water faucet, you install a less than desirable faucet until the original arrives. When it does, a time will be scheduled to swap them out.
3. Be empathetic - Understand that your customer is depending on the schedule or service you provide. Any changes may require changes on their part. Some may be uncomfortable, or costly for them. It's easy to get upset and snap back at an unhappy customer, "I'm can't predict the weather that caused the shipping delay!". Better to reply with; "I know this change is difficult for you and we will get the work completed as soon as possible."
No matter which theory or idea best fits your needs, it is important that you always set expectations with the customer at the beginning.
Embarrassing as it is, there are a couple of lessons to be learned.
Recently a small business was implementing some upgrades to their point-of-sales and internet sales software. During the late night hours the software was taken down and their technicians worked diligently, quickly to complete the upgrades and reload them to the registers and system. One technician says to the other, "Done!".
The second technician hears the first say, "Done!" and assumes all is well and the upgrade is finished. You guessed it, the software was not reloaded to the server or registers for all to see. The first technician really meant, "I'm done with my part, now it's yours to reload." The one word declaration - - "Done!" - - did not communicate that message well. The following day a client emails, "We need help!!!???"
Business is slowed as they don't have the point-of-sales software, online purchases can not be completed, and they had to create a work around on the fly -- remember business continuity planning we discussed earlier?
They called us for help. Keep in mind this software is the heart of our client's business so we move carefully, and start by retracing the steps taken for the upgrade. We start by meeting with the technicians to walk through each step that was completed from beginning to end.*
Two lessons were learned:
1. Communicate clearly your intended message and make sure the recipient of the message understands your intent.
2. Verify completed work which did not occur in this situation.
For small business owners clear communications are critical. One simple word with an unclear intent can "take your business down" for up to 10 hours. Although you may not have experienced a failure such as this, we encourage you to prevent the possibility of it happening to you, by talking about processes and most importantly, clear communications with your colleagues.
* We've learned from experience not to dive right in and start tinkering with the software, rather explore what led to the issue.
Your website looks fantastic when you view it on your computer using your favorite browser, but what do your customers, clients see?
Visiting websites with smartphones and tablets continues to steadily increase.
Are you reading this post on a mobile device?
Larger smartphones, and increasing use of tablets may be the reason? Just looking at these statistics would indicate that half of your customers are using mobile devices to look at your web pages. We monitor the types of devices that visit our clients sites and have found that statistics for mobile devices are much higher, averaging 88.7%!!! (Because of this stat, all pages we create are done in a responsive website design to display properly on the device being used)
So, the lesson here is to make sure that your website displays properly on any mobile device. Take a look at it using your smartphone and using a couple of mobile browsers like chrome, safari, and Fire Fox - the most commonly used web browsers. If it does not look right, then fix it!!!!
Consider the following as you set-up your web pages:
Now for fun, visit your competitors websites using your mobile device and see how they look and perform. You may find they don't perform well and this could give you the edge! How many times have you visited a website on your mobile device where it takes too much time to load, or the text is garbled, images hard to see? Chances are you wait a few seconds then go on to the next page.
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950 Eagles Landing Pkwy, Suite 422
Stockbridge, GA 30281