One of the mugs in our kitchen says “Always give people more than they expect to get.” It’s one of the best pieces of business advice I’ve ever received, and it came from a coffee mug. Exceeding expectations is really the only way to succeed in business. Just meeting expectation won’t cut it–there’s always someone out there who is more motivated or more desperate who will exceed expectations. The only way to compete is to perform at a higher level than is expected.
People don’t set their expectations based solely on your previous performance–their expectations are influenced by a variety of factors. Competitor’s advertising sets expectations. Your advertising sets expectations. Experiences with other businesses in your field set expectations. Experiences with your business set expectations. Word of mouth sets expectations. There are limits to how much control you have over customer expectations. In addition, it can be very hard to measure what people expect.
You need to evaluate the competition not only so that you are aware of trends in your field, but also so that you can identify the services or products that are becoming so widespread, they are becoming consumer expectations.
You can exceed expectations in one of two ways. The first way to exceed expectations is by performing an expected service in a better way. For example, if most people are offering free shipping with a minimum purchase of $50, you might offer free shipping with a purchase of $35. You might be able to find a product or service that saves the company money.
The second way to exceed expectations is by offering something different. If most people are offering (or advertising) free shipping with a minimum purchase of $50, you might offer 24-hour service. You don’t have to follow the trend, but you’ll need to have a great reason not to do this. If you can add a better product or service, go for it–but make sure the customer knows about it.
If you want to beat the competition, you must exceed your customer’s expectations. If you don’t, someone else will.