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Understand Your Customers’ Needs and Expectations

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It’s so easy to get caught up in the quest for “Amazing” or “Magical” service.  We will certainly discuss those opportunities to do something really epic in later posts – because I definitely don’t want to dissuade you from going above and beyond.  As a lover of all things Disney and a 20 year veteran of the catering business, I can tell you that I go overboard for my customers as often as I’m able and love it when it is done for me – but that isn’t an everyday expectation.  More important is making sure that the basics are well executed

The reason this is worth discussing is that customers don’t need that sense of wonder each and every time.  What they are looking for first and foremost is to get the service they are seeking, at the price they want to pay, when they need it.

Let’s talk about visiting a restaurant for a moment – we all have experience with that.  When folks come in for a meal at a neighborhood eatery, they have a very specific set of expectations.  If the tables are clean, the food is hot and tasty, and the servers quick to refill the beverages, then there is a good chance that the diners are going to leave happy.  If you throw in a few challenges – dirty tables, cold french fries, or a server who forgets about you because of a large party that just arrived, that will definitely cause problems.


Because people freak out when something they take for granted doesn’t work just right.  Think about that for a minute:

  1. Didn’t it tick you off the last time the drive through forgot the ketchup or one of your side dishes?

  2. What about a loss of power on a clear night for no good reason

  3. Ever had your cable go dark on the best night of television?

  4. What about when you can’t connect to the internet

  5. Finally, bad traffic on a weekend when you least expect it

No matter what your business might be, start by looking at exactly what your core customers are looking for – it could be fantastic ice cream; it could be a quick bank transaction; it could be a medical exam; or they might be shopping for paint and lumber.  Regardless, if you start by analyzing and scripting what makes up a successful base experience, you can nail that each and every time.  Once you’ve developed that muscle-memory, you can move on to the WOWs.

Any of the amazing businesses you might associate with the “Big Experience” start by getting the basics right.  Zappos doesn’t abandon on time shipping so they can have fun on the telephone with their callers; Delta doesn’t lose your luggage so they can focus on being so friendly; and Disney doesn’t serve melted Dole Whips so they can have great fireworks.

If you don’t get the basics right, no one will care about the rest.

Remember, start by tackling those base expectations.  Don’t overcomplicate things or try to move on to those home-run-moments until you have the basics under control.  No one wants to do business with folks who haven’t mastered their core business, so conquer those daily pieces first and build your customers’ trust.

Until Next Time, Tony Johnson

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