Cutter Aviation is well-known for outstanding customer service. Part of their strategy for making that happen is setting realistic expectations.

In yesterdays Coaching Program Webinar, Ryan Keough of Cutter Aviation  was our guest instructor.

We were talking about the difference between people that write the textbooks on customer service and people that are eyeball to eyeball with real customers every day. Or” mouse to website,” or phone to phone, or email to email.

At any rate, the textbooks don’t always cover the reality of customer service.
“The customer is always right” is a nice thought, but in reality, there are some limitations to what we can and should offer our customers.  Sometimes requests fall outside the boundaries of what can reasonably done, given the realities of safety, regulations, finances, and logistics.

There is often tension between marketing, sales and customer service.  If marketing materials or a salesperson promise the sun, the moon and the stars to “make the deal,” customer service people must then deliver on those promises.

Ryan cited the very funny (and very popular) xtranormal video Lear Jet Captain. You may have seen it making the rounds on Facebook or Twitter, but if you haven’t, here it is.

The excellent point Ryan made was that customers sometimes walk in the door with unrealistic expectations.

Since these conditions can’t possibly be met, it leads to frustration and resentment on both sides.  That frustration and resentment can’t help but spill over onto other customers and other transactions as there are delays and expense in trying (and failing) to deliver the impossible.

Marketing and salespeople need to understand that setting realistic expectations might lose a few sales for them in the short run, but it will help their personal reputation for honesty (an absolute must in today’s sales climate) as well as their organization’s reputation for meeting (or exceeding!) expectations.

Some ways to set appropriate expectations with prospective clients and customers:

  • Collect and use accurate data.  Report accurate service times, success rates and other data in your marketing materials. Make sure these are verified and current.
  • Ask your prospective client what results he expects, and over what timeframe.  Let him know before the purchase if his expectations are out of line, and provide reasons.
  • Give references and show testimonials.   The reactions of other people improve your credibility because they are real people talking about their real experiences with your company.

Ryan’s tip –  Politely hold your ground. Don’t cave in and scramble for a customer that’s completely  unrealistic.   Losing a customer is sometimes a necessary and reasonable outcome of doing business.  Sometimes it’s just not a good fit.

This is in line with the philosophy of long cycle marketing – although you may lose a customer or a sale in the short run, those watching or affected by your decisions are more likely to be a good fit, and refer other customers who are a good fit for your particular product or service.

The textbooks will never tell you that!