In all my years as a consultant, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've been confronted with vision and mission statements that include the phrase exceed our customers' expectations. And while it’s a very worthwhile (and even noble) ambition for any organisation, the reality is that it rarely manifests itself beyond just words on paper.
Now, in addition to being a consultant, I’m also a seasoned professional consumer. This means that, for many service-oriented organisations, I can be a ‘nightmare customer’ – not because I like to bitch and complain about things not going my way, but because I challenge companies when they don’t live up to their own standards.
As a customer, I can assure you that I am very content when any given company simply meets my expectations. It would take a whole lot to ‘exceed’ them, and in my 40+ years as a professional consumer, I know that finding an organisation that can do so consistently, each and every time we interact, is a very rare exception.
As a consultant, I can tell you that, in most cases, this inconsistency is a result of organisations trying to do new and innovative stuff within the context of outdated and misaligned organisational structures and mindsets. Simply put, these organisations want to change their customer relationships without changing how they operate internally. And as Tony Robbins put it so eloquently: by changing nothing, nothing changes.
So my challenge to all business leaders and strategists out there is this: instead of concentrating on exceeding your customers’ expectations, try exceeding your own expectations as an organisation first and foremost – then watch your customer relationships improve exponentially.