A big part of quality control in a service organization is to control the expectations of the customer.  Since a service is highly un-uniform and often non-tangible, there is rarely a quantitative way to measure ‘quality’.  Because of this non-quantitative measuring environment of quality…the customer’s opinion becomes the primary determination of quality.

Hence, if you control the expectations of the customer…you can be sure to exceed their expectations and therefore deliver superior service.  Here are a few ways to control their expectations so that you can surpass them later:

  1. Plan for the worst/Hope for the best: When giving time expectations, always add 30% to your estimate (unless it’s connected to money).  A client will rarely thank you for meeting your deadline, but they SURE don’t forget it if you’re late on a deadline.
  2. Use a flowchart: Customers often only recognize their part of the process, and probably don’t understand all of the moving parts behind the scenes.  Using a flowchart to communicate helps the customer understand that you’re working even when they don’t see you.
  3. Communicate: Yes, talk to your customer throughout the process.  If they are getting concerned about something, it is best to deal with the issue before it escalates.  How much is to much?  That all depends on the project and length of work, but generally…you should call them more then you think.
  4. Educate your customer: Create value by letting your customer know how hard your job is.  This can be done simply by explaining the obstacles you’ve had to overcome to deliver on what you promised.
  5. Be Visible: Many restaurants have glass walled kitchens so you can look in to see what the cooks are doing.  This is a form of educating the customer and control the expectation; the customer sees fresh food being used associates their experience as very high end.
  6. Be vague:  If possible…use broad terms and try to avoid specifics.    Avoid stating measurements if possible.  This isn’t lying to your client; you still have every opportunity to produce superior work, you’re just avoiding a possible issue later.  As said above, round up on on loose costs estimates and time lines so that you can beat them later.  Imagine how excited your customer would be if you came in 10% UNDER on a work order.
  7. Encourage the Complaint: A complaining customer is a good customer, because they are letting you know exactly where you are not meeting their expectations.  The worst words you can ever hear are “Yeah that’s fine.”  If your customer ever says “that’s fine”….be careful, because something is certainly not fine.

I hope that helps you manage the customers expectation.  Everyone wants to provide superior customer service…but it’s the customer who defines what that means.  With these pointers, you can ensure that your customers are raving about you, and not just satisfied with you.

Post filed under Quality Management.