Exceeding expectations Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

Everyone appreciates a little something extra. In New Orleans, it’s called lagniappe. It’s the small wind-fall that makes a customer feel good about doing business with a particular firm. In an era when customers often are relieved when a deal meets minimum contract standards, the company that exceeds client expectations is going to shine.

“We have always believed it is better to underpromise and overdeliver,” says Carl Albright, president and chief executive officer of InfoCision Management Corp., Akron, Ohio. While it is not always simple to achieve that goal, the benefits of going beyond what is expected are great. The idea works at all levels — including an executive’s dealings with the company’s customers and dealings with the company’s employees.

Smart Business asked Albright for a peek behind the curtain to see how a successful company can set about exceeding expectations.

Before you can exceed client expectations you have to set a level of expectation, correct?

You absolutely need to set ‘initial’ expectations. If a client knows you are going to do what you tell them, you build immediate trust and confidence. When you exceed those numbers, goals or service levels, your clients know you are always working in their best interests.

Exceeding your client’s expectations is not only a great way to endear yourself to your client, it is simply good business. It is a way to build a level of trust and security for future dealings.

An old butcher’s maxim used to be: Always give them a bit more meat than they ask for but don’t be afraid to charge them for it. Does this hold?

We certainly strive to overdeliver. However, we do not charge our clients when we exceed those original expectations. Delivering a bit more than the client expects should simply be part of everyday operations.

Does this concept have other applications, as well?

We strongly believe that this whole concept works internally, as well. Exceed your staff’s expectations. Exceed your employees’ expectations. Exceed your boss’s expectations. You will shine through every time someone thinks about you.

Whenever you deliver higher numbers, more sales or a higher return than you originally told your client — whether that client is external or internal — you are putting yourself into a partnership with that person. You are avoiding explaining problems away and you are avoiding difficult conversations at a later time. It runs in tandem with the ‘no surprises’ philosophy of management. The only surprises should be good ones.

No matter what you do, doesn’t everyone always want ‘more, better, faster’?

In my experience, I don’t think that everyone wants more, better, faster. In actuality, most clients and most customers are very realistic with their expectations. They go into a situation with a good understanding of the transaction and the services involved. Just as with anything in life, you are likely to find that some people are more demanding than others. Some people are less appreciative than others. All in all, a good business arrangement allows you to set expectations up ahead of time with your clients and establish the goals that they want you to meet. Then, when you achieve them and then surpass them, things almost always work out very positively for everyone involved.

How forcefully should you ‘sell’ the notion that you gave extra?

When things go well and an organization or person is able to exceed expectations, you really do not need to sell your services or brag about the idea that you gave them something extra, because they are aware of the parameters of the original agreement and usually are very appreciative when you exceed their expectations.

No matter what happens, you always want to deliver more than you did the previous year. You always want to make sure you did not ‘sell’ clients on the expectations. It needs to be a collaborative effort, so they know you want them to be happy. The goal should be to not continually tell clients how well you are doing, but get them to tell you that you are doing a good job and then continually meet and exceed their expectations. <<

CARL ALBRIGHT is president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corporation., Akron, Ohio. He oversees all aspects of the company’s day-to-day operations from sales to marketing to information technology. Reach him at carl.albright@infocision.com. In business for 25 years, InfoCision Management Corporation is the second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 100 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leader of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 32 call centers at 13 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.