Don’t Disappoint your Customers this Holiday Season

by Colin Shaw on December 23, 2014

Disappointment is also not welcome at any time but especially not at Christmas. How can marketers avoid creating a disappointed Customer?

I read the BusinessInsider.com blog about “The 16 Most Disappointing Places to Visit on Earth,” which included places like Casablanca, Jamaica, and the Pyramids in Cairo. The article quotes travelers still smarting with the sting of disappointment from their unfulfilled vacation expectations. Reading these comments, I thought, “The Customers are feeling disappointed due to the way that their expectations have been set.”

Setting expectations is a key job of marketers. They want their product or service to look attractive but it must also be reality. You don’t want this to happen: When writing of a recent visit to Athens, Greece, a dismayed Kuba_Khan wrote, “Expected the birthplace of a great civilization. Received slums and scaffolding.”

The key word here is “expected.” This verb represents the essence of disappointment. All of us have expectations for various aspects of our lives. They need to be met (or exceeded) or you get disappointment. Expectations are associated with our choice of vacation, the gifts we give and receive at the holidays, and the Customer Experiences we receive from the organization.

Disappointment is an emotion caused by the nonfulfillment of your hopes or expectations. It is an emotion most of us would rather avoid at the holidays. Negative emotions are rarely a welcome party guest.

Clearly avoiding disappointment means meeting the expectations of your Customers. This is, as is the case of many things, easier said than done. To that end, however, I have three essential steps to avoiding disappointment this Holiday Season in your Customer Experience:

1. Let go of your perceptions about what the Customer wants. A common danger for organizations is thinking they know best what a Customer wants. The only way to know is to ask your Customers. I realize that if you haven’t been doing this all year, mid-December is hardly the time to start at a company-wide level. However, on the ground and in the trenches, so to speak, Customer-Facing employees should ask the Customer what they want—and do it.

2. When there is a problem, listen closely and fix the real problem. A customer is hopping mad and in your face. You want to fix it, FAST. I wish it were as simple as just asking your Customers what they want and getting the real answer. It isn’t of course, because sometimes the Customer might not even know. Here’s where it’s important to consider the causes of emotions and the personality types of the Customers you serve. I have a graphic that might help.

The two squares that I want to focus on here are the top two. The real problem is likely to involve these two squares because the emotion is coming from a need that is not being met consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes when you ask a Customer they will tell you something from the last box, deception. They say they desire something, but the truth is they don’t really care about it as much as something else from the top two boxes.

If you can figure out what the something else is, what is happening in either of these top two squares, you can fix this situation to the satisfaction (and delight) of the Customer.

3. Institute a Customer-Centric focus, not an operational focus. It’s natural to want to protect your bottom line at the holidays. It’s also natural to enlist protective measures protecting those bottom lines like cost-effective shipping decisions or restrictive return policies. These are operationally focused, however, and not focused on the Customer’s needs. Customers might need something in two business days rather than five or might have lost the receipt but need to return a purchase. If you focus on Customer’s needs, you are far more likely to avoid not meeting their expectations and disappointing them.

No One Wants to Ruin Christmas

Disappointing Customers happens because you do not meet their expectations and marketers play a key role. Some organizations haven’t learned what those expectations are throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately for these companies, the Holidays tend to be a time of elevated expectations. This circumstance can make Customer Experience mistakes even more detrimental to the perceptions of an experience. If you are the organization that “ruined Christmas,” your customers are likely to give you big lump of coal in the new year!

What is the most disappointing thing that has happened to you over the holidays? I would love to hear your comments below.

“Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success” is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level. Celebrating the launch of this new eBook, I am hosting a LIVE webinar focusing on what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your Customer Experience and the vital role of the conscious and subconscious experience with real-world examples. Read more about the book and register for the webinar, here.

All attendees will receive a discount code for 50% off the eBook.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author offour best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawDon’t Disappoint your Customers this Holiday Season

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