Expectations are a delicate thing. They can’t be left alone – they must be actively managed. Too often, the expectations of customers and prospects are considered only as an after-thought, if at all. When this happens, it is like playing roulette with customer satisfaction – occasionally you’ll come out all right, but in the end the house always wins. Let’s look at how you can quickly and effectively increase the amount of business that your website brings you by properly managing expectations.
You Must Set Expectations
Although your customers and prospects come to you with their own pre-conceived ideas and expectations, you must work to clearly communicate what they should expect. Clearly conveying what they should expect does several things.
- Creates and builds trust by giving you the opportunity to demonstrate the keeping of all the little promises that you’ve made in the form of the expectations that you set.
- Minimizes disappointment and dissatisfaction because you’ve established expectations that are in line with what you routinely deliver.
- Provides the opportunity to really WOW your customers by exceeding their expectations.
Begin With Your Target Audience
The starting place for managing expectations is with your target audience. You see, expectations aren’t created in a vacuum. You’ve got to begin by considering your target audience. Begin by identifying their needs and desires? What are they focused on? What are their concerns? What are their real issues? Personas can be a helpful tool in fleshing out these kinds of details. The answers to these questions will provide you with powerful insights into the needs and expectations of your target audience.
Unless you run a monopoly, your customers have alternatives. What are those alternatives? Who else is doing the same thing or something similar to you? The purpose of building out a list of alternatives that your customers have is to be in a position to better understand how your market or industry is currently managing customer expectations.
What is it like to do business with those other companies? It is much easier to critique something and see how something could be improved than it is to create something new from scratch. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. Take a good look at what it is like to do business with those other companies out there. How are they managing expectations? What ideas pertaining to the customer experience can you borrow from them and implement in your own business?
Most Desired Action
What is the goal of your website? What do you really want people to do when they come to your site? Although there are likely lots of different things they could do on your website, what is it that you most want them to do? This is the most desired action for your website. Once you are super clear on what that is, it is a lot easier to arrange things so that it happens more frequently.
Increasing this kind of goal activity involves arranging your site so that your visitor’s expectations are met every step of the way until they are ready to take that most desired action.
What Does Your Audience Need In Order To Take Action
What do visitors to your site need to see, know, and do before they are really ready to take that most desired action? Obviously everyone isn’t exactly the same in this regard, so use cases are an important tool that gives you great insight into those differences and how to best accommodate them.
What information do people need to see about your products or services before contacting you or placing an order? Business owners love to leave out important pieces of information in order to get people to call for more information. Often it has the opposite effect because we’re spoiled by living in an instant society. We can communicate with other people instantly through all sorts of electronic means – gone are the days of letter writing and waiting for the postman to deliver the reply. Google and other on-line resources have made information instantly available that would previously have involved a search starting with a card catalog at your local library. The point is if there is information that people need in order to make a decision or take action, it needs to be easily available on your website.
Identify Perceived Risks
What risks – from your customer’s perspective – are associated with your most desired action? For example, if your most desired action is for people to call you; what are the concerns or fears that your prospect has in the back of their mind that stand in the way of them giving you a call? Perhaps they are afraid of dealing with a high-pressure sales person who is only interested in wringing out one more sale. Perhaps they are afraid they’ll be hassled with all sorts of follow up calls if they’re not quite ready to make a purchase decision. Perhaps they’re afraid they’ll waste time talking with someone who isn’t that knowledgeable and can’t really answer their questions. What concerns hold your prospects back from taking that most desired action on your website?
Those concerns are real concerns and they must be addressed. Ignoring a concern doesn’t make it go away – it must be properly addressed in a thoroughly convincing manner. Addressing concerns the right way isn’t about listing them in bullet point fashion and saying that your business is different and these concerns don’t apply here. Very few would find that convincing. Instead, you’ve got to demonstrate proof that those concerns don’t apply to your business. This gets back to setting expectations.
For example, to set the right expectations so that people know what to expect when calling your business, you can show pictures of the people they’ll be talking to on the phone. You can weave in testimonials that describe the experience that others have had when they called for more information. You can provide a little biographical information about the people they’ll talk to on the phone and their qualifications and expertise. All these little things work together to set the right expectations so that when people know exactly what to expect when contacting your business and they’re not held back by fears and pre-conceived ideas that don’t apply to you.
Convey the Right Impression
How can you very early on, convey what customers should expect in their dealings with you? If you were a customer instead of the business owner and you visited your website – what impression of the business would you have? Based only on what you see before you, what expectations would you have? Would you want to do business with this company? Setting the right expectations is a process that needs to be maintained over time. Do this right, and you’ll build trust and good-will with your audience and see your sales and referrals increase greatly.