Imagine you ordered a cheeseburger.  But as you prepare to dig in, you discover there is no cheese.  Now you just have a burger.  I recently spoke to a customer who had a “burger only” experience.  He rented a backhoe and was ready to dig in at his construction site.  But the bucket was loose and the dig was a disaster. You guessed it — no cheese.

He was polite with his comments and professional in his demeanor.  Yet, he was unmistakably disappointed as he said, “I won’t use them again.”

As a customer experience research analyst at The Daniel Group, my ears are trained to listen to customer feedback.  But my teammates and I don’t just hear numeric ratings; we hear the details behind them.  Our notes and recorded calls provide clients with both the scores and the story of how customers really see them.

And what customers really see, customers often say.  When they feel a supplier is reliable, they tell us about the value of the relationship – and they tell their friends and colleagues, too.  And they’ll let their feelings be known when a supplier doesn’t meet expectations.

Start by Keeping Your Word

“I’ll always go back.”  “Keep up the good work.”  “I just told my neighbor about my new equipment.” These are common comments I hear from customers who are pleased with their supplier relationship.

However, when highly satisfied customers are asked to give a reason why they would recommend a company to someone else, the most common answer is simply following through on the expectations they set: “They do what they say they will do.”

In other words, they don’t forget to put the cheese on the burger.

Now, Go Exceed Expectations

If you consistently meet the expectations you set with customers, you’re well positioned to exceed those expectations.

A few months ago, a customer told me, “I feel like they really care about me — like they are actually trying to improve my quality of life.”  In this case, the equipment dealer had gone out of their way to repair equipment on a weekend.  The customer said, “They said they would be there at 8:00 am and they came at 7:50 am.” He then laughed as if to say, not only did they make a promise, they exceeded their own expectations and mine.

Exceeding expectations is not unique to one party in a business transaction.  It can start a positive chain reaction.  I frequently hear from my clients’ customers that they want to exceed the expectations of their own customers, and that’s only possible if their suppliers deliver on their promises.  Hence, they also want to deliver the cheese by doing business with providers who understand their goals.

Cheese Matters

I’m positioned to hear a customer’s level of satisfaction, but I also provide a willing and neutral ear.  The customer knows I’m capturing their feedback but they have also captured my attention.

Frequently, by the time a customer has answered the first few questions, the tone for the survey is set. They have already begun to sing the praise of a good experience or vent the disappointment of a poor one.

Whether they share how much they appreciate quality service or they are looking for a timelier phone response, we hear about it.  As a result, the customer hears that they matter and it matters if the “cheese” they received was any good or if there was no cheese at all.

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