In today's highly competitive world, it's never been more important to exceed both personal and professional expectations. If you're merely meeting expectations, you can position yourself as good -- but not great. Or, you might be positioned as great, but not extraordinary. You will continue to have to work hard to add new customers and grow your business, as well as your reputation, and you will find competitors stealing your customers.
The sad truth is that few companies, businesses, associations, organizations, and individuals exceed their customers' expectations. Here are some strategies you can use to do just that.
Promise a lot and deliver more
If we promise to do everything we can possibly do for a customer in order to make a sale, there will be no way to exceed expectations. It's important to keep some of the functionality of a product -- or a part of the service that you sell -- a secret, so that the customer discovers the added value after the purchase. Because the added value is both discovered and experienced after the purchase has been made, you'll be able to exceed what they expected to happen.
A great example of this notion is embodied by Lexus. When people purchase a Lexus, they expect the car to be great by virtue of its billing as a "luxury" vehicle. Ostensibly, there exists a set of features setting the brand apart not only from more "standard" automakers but from other luxury car brands, as well. But in addition to the advertised features, there are many little things the customer will discover and enjoy after they have made the purchase. Lexus knows it's both the big and the little things that make the difference -- down to the particulars, like when a customer first opens a cup holder, which opens purposefully slowly, a deliberate mechanism revealing the beautiful woodwork within as if it were something special.
Another example of this practice from Lexus can be found when a customer goes in for their first scheduled service; not only will the customer get a new car to drive at no cost, their car will be washed, the inside cleaned, before it's given back. If there's so much as a scratch on the paint, the dealer will fix it without the customer having to ask.
Again, it's the little things -- the accouterments and ancillary features -- that will put the product over the top and end up delighting the customer. If the customer knows exactly what to expect by knowing every detail and function, no matter how key or supplementary, there is no way to then exceed these expectations.
The key is to keep some of the functionality of a product or an element of a service hidden from the customer when making the sale. After they make the purchase, they will not only be satisfied with what they knew they would get, they will discover the added benefits and appreciate the extra mile you went for them.
The commonsense notion this idea hinges around is that, categorically, be it in your personal life, your career, your love life, or anything else you set your mind to, disappointment comes from failed expectations -- while this doesn't necessarily mean keeping customers' expectations low, it's important not to overhype them, but to surprise and delight whenever possible.
This idea can be manifested if you have a product but the design and functionality are already known. If perhaps the method of packaging remains unknown, you can use the packaging to exceed expectations.
A great example of this was illustrated when people began receiving the Apple Watches they'd ordered. Thanks to Apple's website, they already know how it looked, what functions it had, and thanks to multiple videos, how to use it. What they didn't know was the amazing job Apple did in packaging the product and designing an extraordinary experience in opening the box. From the quality of the box to the quality of the extra long charging cord, customers found themselves both pleasantly taken aback and even more satisfied.
Anticipate customer service issues and troubleshooting
Another key way to surpass your customers' expectations is by providing excellent service to your customer base before they know they need it. Now, while you're not going to release a product or service that isn't, in your opinion, entirely market-ready, there's a good chance problems will crop up at some point between a new product's release and when you put its upgrade or next iteration out there.
Looking back to tech companies like Apple or automakers like Lexus, as soon as these companies get their products out, they test constantly, always on the lookout for issues or opportunities for troubleshooting before the customer can catch them -- that way, a software upgrade or a surprise call for mechanical service makes you appear proactive, undoubtedly impressing the customer, who'll likely be relieved at not having to spot these possible malfunctions or errors themselves and bring them to your attention for remedy.
This idea seems a confluence of applying both my Anticipatory Organization Model as well as the agile model of product development to your perception of customer expectations. In doing this, you can develop a practice of preempting product or service issues and delighting your clientele with proactive troubleshooting, upgrades, or overall customer service.
These are only a few ways you can exceed expectations. Because I have always been impressed with the quality of the comments readers put at the end of my articles, I urge you to share any additional strategies and/or examples you have to expound on this important subject.