When was the last time you ordered something online and were so impressed with the experience that you shared it with friends and family?
The truth is, most businesses try to get away with just being average. But an average business produces mediocre results. It's the ones that put in a little extra effort to exceed customer expectations that create raving fans who purchase more often and share their experience with others.
In this post, you'll learn the importance of exceeding customer expectations to build a business that breaks past mediocre and makes more money.
Are you up to the challenge?
The Advantages of Exceeding Expectations
Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let's first look at the business case for exceeding customer expectations.
First, it’s relatively easy to do. We live in a world of mediocrity. Standing out isn’t all that difficult. It’s low hanging fruit for your business and one that has the ability to produce big results.
Second, when you exceed the expectations of your visitors and customers, you create a positive association that further helps to build your brand and customer loyalty. This can significantly help with repeat purchases and increasing your customer lifetime value (CLV), an important metric for ecommerce businesses.
In fact, in RJMetrics 2015 ecommerce benchmark report, it was found that the most successful ecommerce businesses made the majority of their revenues from repeat purchases past year three of operation.
Top performing companies create a renewable resource of loyal customers. By the end of year three in business, a majority of their revenue is coming from repeat purchases.
Finally, a customer with a good experience will tell others, helping you acquire new customers and lowering your overall marketing acquisition costs.
To sum it up, when you exceed customer expectations, you create customers that spend more money, purchase more frequently and help you acquire more customers by sharing their experience. In all three ways that an ecommerce business can make more revenue, over-delivering on expectations helps you achieve it.
What Do Customers Expect?
Customers don’t expect much. Most of them are pretty reasonable most of the time. One of the reasons most of them don’t expect too much is because very few companies take the time to raise the bar and put these higher expectations in the heads of customers.
Let’s take a look at what the average consumer expects, before we look at how you can go above and beyond.
- Customers expect timely, knowledgeable, friendly communication, pre and post purchase.
- Customers expect exactly what they ordered.
- Customers expect relatively fast shipping.
- Customers expect a reasonable return policy.
How to Exceed Expectations, Every Time
So how do you over-deliver to every customer every time? It begins with understanding each of your customer touch points.
A touch point is a single interaction a visitor or customer has with your brand. These interactions can be anything from a visit to your website, a live chat session, the condition and appeal of the package they receive, a follow-up email correspondence, or even a single Tweet.
Every single touch point a visitor or customer has with you and your brand has the opportunity to meet, exceed or fail customer expectations.
Map Out Touch Points
To create an above and beyond experience, you first need to map out each touchpoint your visitors and customers typically have with your brand. The easiest way to start this process is to break out your visitor/customer experience into major categories, and then list all the touch points a visitor/customer would typically go through for each category.
For example, you may decide you break out your major categories like this:
- Pre-Purchase - All the interactions a visitor/customer has with your brand prior to purchasing anything from you.
- Purchase - The interactions a customer has while purchasing from you.
- Post-Purchase - All the interactions a customer has with you after they have purchased from your brand.
Another way you may choose to categorize you touch points might be by type:
- Social Media Communication
- Direct Communication (Emails, Live Chat)
- Auto-responders (Purchase Receipt, Newsletters)
- Informational (Product Descriptions, About Page, Contact Page)
- Received Customer Package
- Store Policies (Return, Exchange)
Break Them Down
Once you define your main categories, you’ll want to break it out into all the touch points your visitors, and customers are likely to have with your brand.
Here's an example:
|Social Media||Product Photos||Purchase Receipt|
|Live Chat||Product Descriptions||Received Package|
|Advertising/Marketing||Contact Page||Thank You Note|
|Email Inquires||Checkout Experience||Return Policy|
Of course, this is just a small example. You'll want to consider every point-of-contact with your visitors and customers for each of your major categories, so matter how small.
Do One Thing Really Well
You can't be everything to everyone. Over-delivering across all touch points can get expensive, and there's a point of diminishing returns. Your best bet is to start by choosing one touch point to focus on and do the best you can with that.
Once you choose a touch point to focus on, ask yourself, "What does the average person expect from this?". Once you've determined an average customer expectation, you'll want to brainstorm ways that you can exceed those expectations.
Take for example what the founder of CDBaby.com did a decade ago. One day the founder decided that his post-purchase emails weren’t exceeding customer expectations and chose this as a touch point to over-deliver on. All it took was 20 minutes, and he crafted new, exciting, and interesting copy that he knew would surprise customers:
This email is the perfect example of a very small change that significantly exceeded customer expectations of a delivery email. Today, if you search for “private CD Baby jet” in Google, you’ll find 60,000 results.
In another example, Ryan French, founder of GameKlip, decided to over-deliver by adding a small package of candies with each order. It was so well received by his customer that they talked about it all over social media, forums and blogs. Again, a search on Google for “GameKlip Rockets Candy” will return nearly 27,000 results from people talking about the surprise they received that exceeded their expectations.
Identify Other Touch Points to Improve
Here’re a few resources to get you started:
- Improve About Page
- Improve Product Photography & Product Video
- Improve Product Descriptions
- Improve Post Checkout Experience
- Improve Packaging & Unboxing Experience
- Improve Package Inserts
Be Your Own Customer
Once you’re happy with your newly crafted customer experience, try testing it out yourself. Go through your entire purchase experience as if you were a brand new customer.
Does the whole experience exceed your expectations as a new customer? Would it exceed others? Is it an experience worth sharing?
Finally, you’ll want to ask your customers for feedback. If you’ve truly done a great job, you’ll likely see some of the fruits of your labor in the form of increased positive customer emails, as well as mentions on social media.
Of course, you can also ask for feedback from your visitors, customers or third parties. Consider some of the tools at your disposal:
Fiverr - Video Website Review - Get website feedback from a fresh set of eyes, all for a few dollars.
Survicate - Survey your visitors about their experience, right from your website.
Receiptful - Get immediate post-purchase customer feedback right from the most opened customer email, their purchase receipt.
Although there are many elements that will play into success or failure of your business, your customer’s experience will ultimately play a huge part in this.
Over-delivering is one of the best strategic moves you can make as an online business owner as it creates customers that share their experience, spend more money and purchase more frequently.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on his ecommerce blog.