How to Set Customer Expectations as a Small Business

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Whether we like it or not, customers simply expect more from everything, from small businesses to huge outlets like Amazon. Instant gratification is the norm today especially since most products and services are rapidly mass-produced.

Small businesses have the herculean task of learning how to adapt to customer expectations, as 63% of millennial consumers prefer purchasing from small businesses with a digital presence. Learning how to navigate this period of transition and acceleration (especially since we’ve only just begun the post-Covid recovery) is crucial to ensure business growth and success.

Frustrated small business owners can have a challenging time in trying to meet overly high customer expectations, and when internal processes and output become fear-motivated it’s even more difficult to stay focused in providing quality products. If a business owner moves from a mindset of fear, whether of losing a contract or a client, then they’re more liable to compromise their values and agree to terms that they can’t deliver. 

Managing customer expectations from the beginning is crucial for business owners so that they can control the pace of growth and output within their team.

How have customer expectations changed over time?

Setting and meeting your customers’ expectations are important, they consist of a set of ideas and even opinions that your target customers have about your brand, products and services.  

With so many tech disruptions in this day and age, human preferences and behaviours have evolved. Here are key reasons why your customers’ expectations might have changed over time: 

  • Customer service - There’s a stronger demand for better customer service, especially in younger demographics.
  • Digital experience - Businesses are creating omnichannel platforms to sell products and services.
  • Social and economic events - The current living conditions as well as the political and social environment can impact a customer’s wants and needs.

A customer’s preferences can also be influenced if they’ve purchased a direct competitor’s offering first, leading them to readjust their own expectations if they decide to transfer to another brand. In the same token, bad service or negative reviews can impact your brand image. It’s crucial for a business to understand their customers so that they can provide a great experience that meets their customers’ expectations. 

Why the customer isn’t always right

As a business owner, it’s important to address a problem with a solution only you can provide with your products and services. We want to get things done, and unfortunately, that also means we end up working long hours.

I’ve experienced this with my previous business, we lost money because we lost sight of what was really important: Making the business grow. When you prioritise the happiness of your customers over the overall health of your business, it’s more likely for things to go on the rocks. Trying to please everyone is impossible, as it can lead to more anxiety and undue pressure for the business owner and their team

It’s important to set and implement personal and professional boundaries so that you don’t spread yourself too thin. This will help you identify your business strengths and limitations, so that you can stay within your lane and ensure that you become an authentic business leader and expert in your industry.

Getting work-life balance is important so that small business owners have a grounded perspective and that they don’t lose sight of their true goals. Enforcing your boundaries and learning to say “no” to potential contracts that don’t add value to your business are important if you want to succeed.

How to set customer expectations (the right way)

It’s important to manage and set your customer’s expectations from the beginning so that you can convert them into loyal customers and attract new ones.

Here are five ways you can set customer expectations:

  1. Understand your customers 

Since your customers’ needs and wants are continuously changing, it’s important for you to understand them. You can build a customer persona so that you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, allowing you to identify personality traits and motivations that align with your brand values. Practicing active social listening can also help you keep an ear on the ground so that you know what people are saying about your business on social media platforms.

  1. Set clear deliverables

Sending an itemised list of deliverables to your client and reviewing it with them can help you clarify the terms of the contract as well as realistic deadlines for each task. This removes the ambiguity between you and your client, ensuring that both parties are satisfied with the contract.

  1. Don’t over-promise or underdeliver

A lot of business proposals are inundated with too much unnecessary information that can leave things open to misinterpretation or miscommunication. Over-promising can lead your team to work overtime in an effort to finish an unrealistic tasklist of deliverables. On the other hand, underdelivering can lead to huge disappointments, affecting your standing with your customer. 

  1. Ask direct questions and clarifications

If your customer starts requesting for additional benefits or packages within their contract, don’t be afraid to directly (but diplomatically) ask them why those inclusions are necessary in delivering their products or services. Clarifying unclear terms will also minimise any confusion or misunderstanding about the contract.

  1. Stand by your boundaries

Building a good rapport with your customers is necessary in cultivating long-term partnerships. Just make sure that you consistently enforce your own boundaries and limitations so that clients can’t take advantage of you and your business.

Setting customer expectations as a small business is an important undertaking to do, especially in the beginning of a potential contract or partnership with a client. The world is constantly moving forward, and small businesses need to adapt to stay ahead of the game.

If you want to attract and retain your ideal clients, book a call with us. Our business sherpas can support you in setting the right standard for your business and your customers.

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