My Favorite Recipe for Fostering Excellent Customer Service...

In the world of customer service, everyone is looking for a secret recipe guaranteed to deliver excellent customer service.  Early in my career I was taught what I believe is one of those recipes to regularly deliver excellent customer service.

The recipe is to “under-promise then over-deliver”.   A promise can also be an expectation.  First, we work with the customer to determine what he or she wants or expects.  Generally, customers don’t expect miracles.  Next, set the appropriate expectation with the customer.  Finally, work to over-deliver on that expectation.  At the very least, if you can’t over-deliver on the promise, then at least fulfill the original promise or expectation and nobody is worse for the wear.
This recipe is not new but it is misinterpreted in a couple of different ways.  First, many people think that this means that I have to deliver the top of the line service every time.  Second, many people think that they need to promise things the customer wasn’t expecting.
1. You don’t need to deliver top of the line service every time.  Customers are thrilled when you simply exceed their expectations by only a little - it doesn’t need to be a lot.  When a customer chooses regular mail for shipping a mail order product, then promise regular mail, but ship the product via express mail.  It doesn’t need to be overnight every time.  Find out what the customer needs and then just slighly over-deliver.
2. It is a mistake to promise things that the customer doesn’t need or want in an attempt to over-deliver.  Remember, “underpromise then overdeliver” only works when it it is an expectation or promise that matters to the customer.  Too many companies throw in “bonus” offerings because it is convenient or inexpensive for the company to do it, forgetting that it isn’t relevant to the customer.  Those “bonuses” are often lost on the customer when their primary expectations are not met.  Over-deliver on customer’s expectations, not on expectations that don’t exist.
There are many areas in contact centers where we can “underpromise and overdeliver”.  Think about what the customer wants in terms of hold times, product return processes, and any other  direct interaction with your customer.  I am sure you can determine exactly what the customer wants and then just slightly over-deliver on it.