Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Common Myth: Awesome Customer Service is Always Good

I was at a seminar recently and the speaker put up one of those perennial slides that irritate me.

Essentially, it said:

- "Always provide service that is above and beyond what the client expects."

I hear this time and time again. It's all about expectations. But it's fundamentally flawed.

What do clients expect? Do they expect to be ripped off? Do they expect to be ignored? Of course not. So meeting reasonable expectations is easy. And exceeding reasonable expectations is not very difficult.

I'm a firm believer that you should provide excellent customer service. In fact, I think our company has always made a point of doing just that. But people who make these kinds of statements seem to over-state their case.

"Always" is the problem. When a client has extremely high expectations, and a low budget, it can be almost impossible to meet their expectations. When a client is unreasonable, it is always impossible to meet their expectations.

Meeting the ridiculous expectations of unreasonable clients can be frustrating - and very costly. An unreasonable client can bankrupt your company.

The biggest problem with the statement above is that it assumes that clients are reasonable, rational people, and that they intend you no harm. Well, there ARE bad people in the world, my friends.

We have met a few "bad apples" who intentionally rip off their clients and their vendors. We run away from these people - both as clients and vendors.

More commonly, we have met lots and lots of people who are perfectly honest but have perfectly unreasonable expectations. These people honestly believe that a $500 computer repair entitles them to lifetime support on their entire network.

These people have no problem calling you at 10 PM, on the weekend, and on holidays. These people want a price lower than they can get at Walmart or Best Buy, but they want $1,000 worth of free labor to install it.

These people aren't bad. But they have unreasonable expectations. If you can get them to adjust their expectations, you can make money. If you can't get them to adjust their expectations, they will take all of your time and give you very little money in return.

If you don't work to set reasonable expectations, just make sure you're not exceeding unreasonable expectations.

In either case, the statement that you should always provide exceptional customer service is sometimes naive and bad advice.


Still the best Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services:

Service Agreements for SMB Consultants: A Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services

by Karl W. Palachuk

Now only $44.95 at SMB Books!

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